Friday, December 1, 2023


November 2021

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 more information (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 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 16 -- CLICK on links to go to the reviews.

Submission deadline for the 17th issue has been set at April 15, 2024 (though we will take reviews sooner than the deadline if that is more convenient for the reviewers).

(December 2023)

Editor's Note:  Welcome to the 16th issue of THE HALO-HALO REVIEW where we provide engagements with Filipino-Pilipinz literature and art and authors/artists through reviews and engagements, interviews, feature articles, and other prose. We hope readers, writers, artists, and publishers will continue to participate and share information about numerous Filipino authors and the wide variety of their writings. 


Beauty Regimes: A History of Power and Modern Empire in the Philippines, 1898–1941 by Genevieve Alva Clutario (Duke University Press, 2023)

Reviewed by Vicente L. Rafael

Getting to One by Eileen R. Tabios and harry k stammer (Sandy Press, 2023)

Reviewed by Harold Legaspi

The Beginning of Leaving by Elsa Valmidiano (Querencia Press, 2023)

Reviewed by Morgan Hoffman

Open for Interpretation: A Doctor's Journey into Astrology by Alicia Blando, M.D. (She Writes Press, 2023)

Reviewed by Maileen Hamto

The Maps of Camarines by Maryanne Moll (Penguin Random House SEA, 2023)

Engaged by Eileen Tabios

A Village in the Fields by Patty Enrado (Eastwind Books, Berkeley, 2015)
Engaged by Rachielle Ragasa Sheffler

Reviewed by Maileen Hamto

Wildflowers by Beverly Parayno (Philippine American Writers and Artists, 2023)
Reviewed by Justine Villanueva

Outlaw Mage :The Dageian Puppetmaster #1 by K.S.Villoso (Vigil Publishing Co., 2023)

Reviewed by Eric Smith

The In(ter)vention of the Hay(na)ku: Selected Tercets 1996-2019 by Eileen R. Tabios (Marsh Hawk Press, 2019)

Reviewed by Lynn Grow 

FLASH REVIEWS of Mountain Dreaming: New Essays by Gemino Abad (2015, UP Press); The Proxy Eros by Mookie Katigbak Lacuesta (Anvil, 2008); Sula's Voyage by Catherine Torres (Scholastica, 2014); October Light by Jeff Tagami (Kearney Street Workshop, 1990)

Reviewed by Aloysiusi Polintan

Jim Pascual Agustin, Waking Up to the Pattern of a Snail Left Overnight
Danton Remoto, The Heart of Summer: Stories and Tales


Go HERE to read:

Leny Strobel on Eileen R. Tabios and M. Evelina Galang
Dani Magsumbol on Jennilee Austria-Bonifacio
Hilton Obenzinger on Beverly Parayno
Eileen Tabios on Marlon Hacla
Josie Fernandez on Beverly Parayno
Vicente Rafael on Grace Talusan
Eileen Tabios on Nick Carbo
Rashaan Alexis Meneses on Beverly Parayno
Karyn Wergland on Beverly Parayno
Beau Beausoleil on Eileen R. Tabios


From Books: Introductions, Prefaces, Forewords, Afterwords, Author's Notes & Other Prose

Translator's Note by Angela Narcisso Torres for BUM TIYAYA BUM by Rene O. Villanueva (Tahanan Books, 2023)

Preface by Christine Start for Rooted in Practice: Pinays in Law edited by Justine Eva Li Villanueva in collaboration with Pinay Powerhouse (Sawaga River Press, 2022)

Introduction by Justine Eva Li Villanueva for Rooted in Practice: Pinays in Law edited by Justine Eva Li Villanueva in collaboration with Pinay Powerhouse (Sawaga River Press, 2022)

Monday, November 27, 2023




 The Beginning of Leaving by Elsa Valmidiano

(Querencia Press, 2023)




Ilocana-American essayist, poet, and author of We Are No Longer Babaylan Elsa Valmidiano has birthed yet another child of the Philippine Diaspora with The Beginning of Leaving, a collection which honors the oral tradition of Philippine peoples while creating something altogether new.

The Beginning of Leaving pays homage to the game of telephone our Philippine ancestors played when they told stories by the fire at night, or while they kept the bedside of a deceased loved one, or while they waded through rice paddies in the hot sun. Each telling of a familiar story promised something different and new. Our ancestors recognized that stories were living beings and they summoned them to aid us in our self-understanding. Valmidiano uses this technique in her collection to dive into the contexts of what it means to be a Diasporic people on settled lands. 

In “Last Three Days in Twentynine Palms” she weaves the story of her sister’s move into her own experiences growing up in foreign lands all while analyzing the relationship between genocide, displacement, and modern-day colonialism.


… the coincidences of where we lived and where we find ourselves no matter how short of a time, in the land of ‘little springs and much grass’ wherever we are in the Diaspora, in Ubbog, in Lapog, in Suangna, in Mar-rah, in another’s land that was stolen by settlers of the same white skin who stole our archipelago for four hundred and twenty-five years, who stole the continent we now live on, and the legacy and ignorance of it still ongoing…


The medicine here, should Filipino Americans be willing to take it, comes as an invitation to ask bigger questions about what it means to be a Filipino in the Diaspora. Whether we are born in the motherland and carried away, haven’t yet set foot there, or only have one Filipino parent- our contexts affect our existence and the way we fit within our people.

She takes this theme of narration and analysis further in “Aswang Hunger” when she postulates about a new aswang born from modernity and centuries of colonization. She speaks about the rice paddies that are no longer in Cubao and the “industrial hunger” that has since replaced them: “As laughter and stories boom from every corner of the house, it feels as if everyone is looking at me and my siblings, their eyes sunken in from hard work and hunger, an aswang hunger that starves for our sweet American blood one last time.

Her juxtaposition of aswang and the American Diaspora paints a painful picture of our relationship to our people in the Motherland and begs the question: who are the real aswang? Perhaps it is the Diaspora. We who don’t quite belong. We who are a living reminder of great atrocities and simultaneously a beacon of hope. Perhaps it is our people left behind in the Motherland, locked in the kind of survival that comes from living for hundreds of years on lands heavily exploited. Perhaps we are all aswang.

Valmidiano’s collection is a meditation on the Diasporic oscillation between existential dread and belonging and as such acts as both surgery and salve. She is knitting together multiple timelines and invoking our painful histories as an invitation to process trauma. In her final piece “The Leaving” she ruminates,


When my sixteen-month-old self had left my Motherland, I wouldn’t say I left.

I was carried to whatever land I was brought to. There were no explanations. No apologies. Whether my parents’ reasons were for the betterment of our lives and our future, it wasn’t my choice.

But in Murujuga is the first time I left. I. Left.

…Murujuga had marked the beginning of leaving. And when it comes to leaving, we have to start somewhere.


In an age where all the medicine people are in hiding the Diaspora has been forced to reinvent our medicines. If I had access to books like this growing up it would have changed the entire trajectory of my life. Assimilated amongst non-Filipinos with a mixed-race identity and no way of understanding who I was, I was nearly lost.

It took me a long time to get through The Beginning of Leaving only because I had to pause to cry, to rage, to sit with my desire to never come back. It was surprising to me that though Valmidiano and I don’t look the same and didn’t grow up in the same city with the same experiences I felt seen by her stories.

Her ability to weave analysis and narrative has created room for the liminal space where conversation and communion collide- with The Beginning of Leaving she has effectively reconstructed the birthing floor of our oral tradition and created a bridge for our ancestors to reach their descendants- wherever in the world we may be.




Morgan Hoffman is of mixed heritage where her Philippine ancestral roots are Ilocano from Agoo and Masbateño from Monreal, Ticao. Her German ancestral roots are from Baden-Württemberg. She currently resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her works have appeared in online publications Anti-Heroin Chic and Pearl Press.