Friday, December 14, 2018

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 Jesús


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)



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. 



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

The first thing you should know about The Pilipinx Radical Imagination Reader is that it is deceptively slim. Don’t let the silhouette fool you: there’s plenty going on in this collection, and it will take the average reader (that’s me!) lots of time to explore all that it has to offer. The work of more than 30 writers, poets, academics, and artists appears here in a variety of forms. Poetry and essays are represented, of course, but you’ll also find rap lyrics, visual art, comics, academic writing, and even a short play.

Editors Melissa-Ann Nievera-Lozano and Anthony Abulencia Santa Ana have organized the book into five sections, making it simple to dive into your area(s) of interest. In the first section, “Cutting Out a Space: Diaspora & Memory,” I was particularly moved by Nicole Gervacio’s series “Paintings From Memory,” where the limbs of ghost-like figures are blurred or non-existent. Vague facial details, and the complete absence of background and/or setting leave the viewer visually unmoored. How much can we ever truly know about the family who came before us, and how much must we piece together from the snippets we hear through the years? How do we approach the question of who we are? I love the way these portraits sit in contrast to “A Reunion of Strangers,” an essay in which Oscar Peñaranda reveals the story of how one of his own family mysteries is solved when an heirloom comes full circle.

The second section, “To Breathe: Health & Well Being,” opens with Trinidad Escobar’s comic/poem “A Geography of My Own.” This is a new and intriguing medium for me, and I’m inspired to search out more of Escobar’s work. Here she explores themes of sisterhood, belonging, memory, and the meaning of home. Ultimately Escobar’s protagonist arrives at a truth that will sound familiar to many Filipino Americans: “…I can live in more than one home / and still have a geography of my own.” The poetry, plays, and essays in this section pose questions to make us think about what we need, physically and spiritually, to ensure our wellness. Food takes center stage here, both literally and as a metaphor. In her essay “Sinangag and Tostones in West Harlem,” Leah K. Sicat notes that her culinary reflections are not just about consumption, but about “how to create, cook up, or remix circumstances that we encounter and how to sustain ourselves and each other.” The importance of decolonization runs like a thread through this book, and it naturally makes an appearance in this section when poet Eileen Tabios skillfully links the appearance of tech-enhanced flower pots in city landscapes to the constant work Filipinos do to…how should I put this…become ourselves? Tabios writes: “The path to decolonization / requires nature.”    

In the compelling narratives of section three—“Suturing Our Split Selves: On Intersectionality”— writers address the challenges that arise when trying to reconcile different aspects of themselves. Adam Rabuy Crayne chronicles a history of abuse that he must confront before arriving at a place of self-acceptance. In “All You Ever Needed: A Queer History of you,” he describes his feelings as he makes a turning-point decision to flee an unhealthy relationship: “With every heartbeat, you feel a bitter memory lodged in your bones dissipating to make room for a new dream. This is the strongest you have ever felt.” In this section we also hear from mixed heritage Pinays who grapple with feelings of isolation, frustration, and belonging. In “What You Just Call Me??!! Challenging Forced Labels on Filipin@s of Mixed Heritage,” Maharaj “Raju” Desai writes about how important it is “to find and name [our] communities in order to build, heal, and grow.” I think it would be wonderful to expand this section with even more voices. Older members of our community, for example, trans writers, writers with disabilities, and others who navigate multiple spaces.    

We move from the individual to the collective with “Cause a Stir: Coalitional Consciousness & Organizing.” The writers in this section call us to action in this age of Trump and Duterte, pointing out the violence and corruption in and around our communities. In “What stands the test of time?” poet Janice Sapigao worries about her mother’s trip home to the Philippines:

She is leaving Trump’s fascist America to travel to her first home, now Duterte’s corrupt and dictatorial Philippines. She first left during Marcos’s reign in the middle of martial law, and now what is the difference. 1978 and 2017. My mom won’t be traveling back or to any time. They are the same.

Also included is “Thinking About Philippine Studies in the United States in the 21st Century” by Lily Ann B. Villaraza, Ph.D., Erina Alejo, Oliver Mangibin, Klaine Justo, and EdianBlair Schoefield. This essay helps to ground the other works and encourages readers to think about the connections that may exist between Philippine Studies and what we can accomplish collectively.

The revolution, as the editors remind us in their introduction, begins at home. “How to Make Home: Family and Radical Parenting,” then, is the perfect way to close out this reader. The conversation between “motherscholars” Maria J. Ferrera and Cecily Relucio Hensler, who are both raising biracial daughters, was full of insight. I especially appreciated the part of their discussion that revolves around what our daughters can teach us about what it means to be Pinay. Dr. Roderick Daus-Magbual and Dr. Arlene Daus-Magbual are educators and parents to a son and daughter. In their essay “Raising Revolution: Critical Pin@y Parenting,” they share their perspective on how being members of a “conscious and politically engaged community” shapes the way they choose to parent. As with section three, I would have liked an additional voice or two from those who live in nontraditional family structures, but there is plenty of valuable information here for anyone who plays a part in the lives of our kids. I wish I’d had it on-hand when I was a new parent.

The Pilipinx Radical Imagination Reader is a rich, ambitious collection. As I worked my way through the book, it occurred to me that this project could easily have taken an awkward turn and ended up much like an overcrowded elevator where no one wants to make eye contact. Instead, it feels expansive and welcoming. Yes, there are many, many writers included here, but the options make it easy for the reader to find a space in which to situate their own narrative, their own radical imagination.


Veronica Montes is the author of Benedicta Takes Wing & Other Stories (Philippine American Literary House, 2018). Connect with her at

Thursday, December 13, 2018



(Northwestern University Press, 2016)

Was the hero’s sacrifice all in vain? I found myself asking this question as I read Brian Ascalon Roley’s The Last Mistress of Jose Rizal, a collection of short stories that captures the agony of the Filipino immigrant experience in finding home, identity and belonging in America: oftentimes indifferent and unaware, sometimes downright inhospitable an unwelcoming.

The stories depict the dysfunctions of newcomers from a former American colony still reeling from the burdens of classism, misogyny and internalized racism. A country and its people haunted by unrelenting aftershocks brought on by centuries of colonization. In sunny California, Filipina women hide from the sun, lest they get too dark. Living among Blacks and Mexicans, mothers all but forbid their precious half-White sons from dating women of color.  

The gaping irony is that these newcomers are not ordinary folk; they descended from royalty, in the Philippine-revolution sense of the word. Bearing the blood of the martyred hero, Jose Rizal, who inspired a bloody revolution against centuries of foreign subjugation. However, in America, Rizal’s descendants must contend with everyday reminders and reinforcements of belittlement and shame, of their lowly places in the U.S. social strata.

Many of the stories were too painful to read, not because they were not well-written, but because they are too close to heartaches shared by many in the vast global Filipino diaspora. I forgive myself for my inability to read outside my social location: a Philippine-borne and raised Manileña who grew up in poverty. In all honesty, I had to put the book down a while, and try again. I struggled with understanding the characters, because they were all too familiar, yet distant and unrecognizable at the same time.

Life is difficult and complex, even for the descendants of the hero who was schooled in Europe, fluent in multiple languages, an accomplished ophthalmologist. Those who carry his blood live in a cramped apartment in Los Angeles, dependent on the school teacher’s salary of the White American breadwinner. I struggled to find humanity in Dina, who cared for his injured Veteran brother Pepe, but refused to allow her White husband to include him in their health insurance coverage. 

The most memorable part of The Last Mistress… overlays the idiosyncracies of Philippine life with the faulty expectations of rugged individualism in the American psyche. Incongruence of Philippine values of service to family and respect for elders create constant friction in how an interracial couple navigates their combined destinies.

Antipathies abound. When Rizal published Noli and Fili, documenting the abuses of the Spanish colonizers against the Indios, I’d bet that he did not foresee that several generations hence, his great-great-grand nephew would be dyeing his hair blonde, chasing White women, and seeking refuge in a Jewish synagogue?  Of course, Rizal’s affection for and dalliances with European women was no secret, so perhaps poetic justice is served.

While Rizal provided medical services free of charge to townspeople of Dapitan, his progeny spends many hours in long lines at the Veterans Administration, only to be denied access to health coverage because of clerical issues. Despite their proximity to Whiteness, Filipino-American boys – sons of White American men – are emasculated, diminished and reduced to less-than by constant bullying.

As I sharpen my critical lens of White supremacy in my personal journey of decolonization, I’m also developing heightened “protective” instincts for the dignity of our people. When I encounter depictions of the ugly side of Filipino culture and psyche, I ask: What’s the point? What does the author get out of reinforcing stereotypes about Filipino women? Who benefits from putting our prejudices on display? How do these deficit-focused narratives help or hinder our people in overcoming structural and institutional racism?

It’s difficult to answer these questions without important context regarding the roots of colonial mentality and its strong links to the worship of Whiteness in the Filipino mind.  However, Roley’s brutally honest stories shine the light on how Filipino society undermines and devalues women’s work. There’s commentary about how newcomers internalize racial oppression and in so doing, electively lose pride in their skin. There’s tragedy in the collective amnesia about wartime casualties, about America’s responsibility to the forgotten Brown people who fought in World War II’s Pacific theatre.      

In the annals of a country’s revolutionary history, Rizal died a martyr. He never saw brown-skinned people prevail over sinful and corrupt Spanish friars. Perhaps Rizal never imagined that his people would continue to struggle under the ruthless pressure of Western colonial rule and influence, psychically, mentally and morally. The hero never anticipated the seemingly incurable disease of self-disgust that is deep in our bones. There are no caricatures of joyful and hopeful endings here.


Maileen Hamto was born and raised in Manila, Philippines during Martial Law.  She was 10 years old during the first People Power Revolution (Edsa 1) that overthrew the dictator. A highlight of her fourth-grade experience is memorizing the Preamble to the country’s newly drafted Constitution. She attended Esteban Abada High School in working-class Sampaloc. Her family arrived to the U.S. in the 1990s by virtue of their matriarch’s career in nursing. And so began the lifelong journey toward decolonization, toward making sense of racial stratification in the U.S., always sharpening the proverbial bolo knives. 

(She could include details about three academic degrees earned in the U.S. and how she pays the bills, but there’s LinkedIn for that.)



TFS by Mary Dacorro

Mary Dacorro’s new manuscript TFS (for Technicolor Firing Squad) uses a range of poetic strategies to critique as if from outside, but also to speak from within, the “seedy” belly of the beast of the Military/Infotainment complex, and the sinister, often subliminal role, it plays in identity formation. The personal and the political come together in Dacorro’s edgy poetry; in contrast to most official psychological theories of human development that place an over-emphasis on the family romance, Dacorro understands and emphasizes the foundational role that immersion into various electronic babysitters from infancy has on our identity formation. “Techno-pop Desires” and “Techno-tramp Disorder” forcefully confront the beast unleashed by 21st century mass-culture addiction in a perfect (combustible) blend of suffering and satire. Her, at time, wry, sidewise glance, is as at home in the absurdity of electronic mass-pop culture as is a strip-club, or abstract emotional (American) city-scape, as in the sharp imagistic juxtapositions of “Metropolis:”

‘Twin towers that tremble into dust
Fossil-fuel                 apple-pie slush
Endless freeways           ant-like cars
Stupefied blow-out sales….

Stadiums as far as the eye can see
Slaughter-houses     slave-labor tenements
Up elevators              up city halls
Up shady and forgotten stories….

Crass commercials curl the grass
Along the concrete wasteland…. (13)

On the other hand, TFS also contains sadder, more empathetic, elegies, eulogies, for casualties of this culture, victims of hate crimes, whether LGBT (“Dear Fabian”), Palestinians (“Gaza Blood”) or fallen soldiers (“Coming Home,” “Memorial Day,” “Collateral”), and “Static” is the kind of beautiful “weary song” that comes out of the doom felt by many as we helplessly witness our towns becoming displaced by gentrification. Dacorro also gives herself permission to “grandstand” or scream in poems such as “Star Spangled Diatribe” and “Maga’s Demented Fallacy.” Yet, ultimately, Dacorro is able to scratch out an alternative to the unnatural and inhumane “American way of life” that we had been socialized into now revealed as “Bio-gangersterism profit bound/ Sterling opportunities mimicking designs/ And energy of Nature.” (13). Although Dacorro is well aware of the risk that writing about these terrors could make things worse (“This is what happens/ When body politics/ invade my solitude”), there’s still a sense of an alternative that is tenacious enough not to be fully drowned:

Why can’t we have a conversation—
With the prairies and the forests
From hubris to uman
Run business like a redwood (“Quagmire”)

And, in this sense, the quieter poems that may seem slighter on first reading, like “Sleep” and “Incessant” gain more traction as a testament to her poetic faith. Ultimately, there’s an exuberance, and buoyancy (as well as piercing wit and humor) in this collection, with its vow to “dwell from dawn to gloom/ in the atmosphere of human thought,” ending with a powerful ode to “The Power of Books,” and their “magnetic lure.” And while many books are surely as toxic as technicolor firing squad (“the lies of white history”), the book ends with a beautiful book-dance:

“Metaphors cross over like bridges,
Syllables vibrate like pendulum oscillates.
Up and down the musical scales,
Black hole’s terrifying pull, nightmares of E=mc2
As the lightning pause before thunder explodes.
As a fly to a spider, as a moth braves the flame.
As bees obey, suck the sugary nectar.
Like a spark tended by embers,
Power and wrench curiosity’s questions
Like diamond blade cuts illiterate thinking
Suddenly open close-minded views….”

And I’ve totally neglected the child-like charm of her quasi-pantoum, “Stange Birthday.” Dacorro is a prolific poet to continue to pay attention to.


Chris Stroffolino is the author of 5 full-length books of poetry, including Slumming It In White Culture (Vendetta Books) and  the forthcoming Drinking From What I Once Wore: Recent & Selected Poems, 1995-2017 (Crisis Chronicles). He’s also published a memoir, and two books of essays of literary and culture criticism. He currently lives in Oakland, and teaches at Laney College.