Sunday, November 28, 2021

THE HALO-HALO REVIEW's Mangozine--Issue 12

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

Submission deadline for the 13th issue has been set at April 15, 2022 (though we will take reviews sooner than the deadline if that is more convenient for the reviewers).

(November 2021)

Editor's Note:  Welcome to the 12th issue of THE HALO-HALO REVIEW where we provide engagements with Filipino-Pilipinz literature and art and authors/artists through reviews and engagements, interviews 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. 


The Kindness of Birds by Merlinda Bobis (Spinifex Press, Queensland, Australia, 2021)

Engaged by Leny Mendoza Strobel

“Selected Notes, Sources & Acknowledgements” to DOVELION: A Fairy Tale for Our Times by Eileen R. Tabios (AC Books, New York, 2021)

Reviewed by Pearl Ubungen

Hotel Pacoima by Michael Caylo-Baradi (Kelsay Books, Utah, 2021)

Reviewed by Neil Leadbeater

Reviewed by Justine Villanueva

Letters to a Young Brown Girl by Barbara Jane Reyes (BOA Editions, 2020)

Engaged by Jean Vengua

The Great Faith by Jose V. Aguilar (Pantas Publishing Co./Popular Bookstore, Quezon City, 2020-1)

Reviewed by Paulino Lim, Jr.

The Ruin of Everything by Lara Stapleton (Paloma Press, San Mateo, 2021)

Engaged by Eileen Tabios

Accidents of Composition by Melinda Bobis (Spinifex Press, Queensland, Australia, 2017)

Reviewed by Neil Leadbeater

REMAINS by Daryll Delgado (Ateneo de Naga University Press, 2019)

Reviewed by Eric Abalajon

The Intervention of the Hay(na)ku: Selected Tercets by Eileen R. Tabios (Marsh Hawk Press, New York, Hardcover 2019 / Paperback 2021)
Engaged by Burt Kimmelman

Invocation to Daughters by Barbara Jane Reyes (City Lights, San Francisco, CA, 2017)

Reviewed by Neil Leadbeater

Go HERE FOR REVIEWS OF Manahatta Mahal: Collected Expatriate Poems by Luis Cabalquinto (University of the Philippines, 2007); Magdalena by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2016; Plain View Press, 2002); Unanimal, Counterfeit, Scurrilous by Mark Anthony Cayanan (Giramondo, 2021); Amigo Warfare by Eric Gamalinda (Cherry Grove Collections, 2007); The Garden of Wordlessness by J. Neil Garcia (University of the Philippines, 2005); The Words and Other Poems by Francis Macansantos (University of the Philippines, 1997);  Bird Lands, River Nights and Other Melancholies by Jose Malte Abueg (University of the Philippines, 2009); Babae, sa Balumbalonan ni Hakob at Iba pang Kwento by Mayette M. Bayuga (University of the Philippines, 2015); We Shall Write Love Poems Again by Dinah Roma (UST Publishing House, 2020); DRIFT by Joel H. Vega (UST Publishing House, 2018); Hairtrigger Loves: 50 Poems on Woeman by Alfred A. Yuson (University of the Philippines, 2004); kolboy by Carlo Tadiar (University of the Philippines Press, 2021)
Reviewed by Aloysiusi Polintan


Barbara Jane Reyes / Letters to a Young Brown Girl
Elizabeth Ann Besa-Quirino / My Mother's Philippine Recipes


Go HERE to read:

*   Eileen Tabios on Patrick Rosal
*   Allan G. Aquino on Barbara Jane Reyes
*   Eileen Tabios on Justine Villanueva
*   Edna Consing Conception on Cecilia Brainard
*   Alice Brody on Eileen Tabios



MT Vallarta reviews More Than Organs by Kay Ulanday Barrett (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2020)

Neil Leadbeater reviews WHAT COUNTS by Eileen Tabios (Tony Firman Bookbinding, Texas, 2020)

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

Jose Y. Dalisay, Jr. presents the Introduction to Departures: Essays by Priscilla Supnet Macansantos (The Philippine Writers Series, 2021)

Saturday, November 27, 2021



The Kindness of Birds by Merlinda Bobis

(Spinifex Press, 2021)




On most mornings in my Northern California home, I watch the house finches, red throated hummingbirds, bushtits and the occasional scrub jay on the feeder hanging in the backyard by the rose bushes. I often wonder how their tiny beaks can crack the black-oil sunflower seeds so fast and furious as they take turns on the feeder. The scrub-jay—too big and heavy—waits by the trellis of the clematis  till the tiny ones are done feeding; her weight tips the feeder and swings sideways so she has to try a few times for a more gentle landing. This is my morning delight. 


Thus, when I learned that Merlinda Bobis has released The Kindness of Birds I immediately ordered it. To me, Merlinda is a babaylan because she is a conjuror of worlds, a shapeshifter, a weaver of Time, a keen observer and listener of the seen and unseen realms. I’ve seen her do these in her earlier works: FishHair Woman, Banana Heart Summer, The Lantern Maker, Locust Girl. I’ve watched her (perform is not even the right word) tell myths and stories with song, chant, and movement that move my spirit and heart. She stirs something in me—a familiarity or kinship—that I often couldn’t language in English. Often I just whisper: KAPWA.


She does this again in The Kindness of Birds, a collection of short stories that are interlinked by Time, historical trauma, grief, displacement, encounters with “others” and then... Birds: cockatoos, crows, orioles, currawongs, maya, crested pigeons, owls, and others. Companions to grief, guardians of memory, tutors of wisdom, singers of lamentations, bearers of messages from the universe—the birds in Merlinda’s stories speak to me of the magnificence of the multiverses she conjures. The birds remind me that if I have eyes to see and ears to hear them, I will get closer to the truth of Kapwa: interconnectedness. And Kapwa as Kindness.


The literary brilliance of Merlinda is in its fullness in this book. The stories stand alone but then I realize later on that they are actually interlinked. I didn’t know about the historical connections between Australia and the Philippines via the indentured pearl divers from the Philippines in the 1800s who were brought to Australia for the pearling industry. Contemporaneously, Filipinos continue to arrive in Australia—as brides, cleaners, graduate students—who encounter other migrants from Malaysia, Latvia, Germany, and encounters with aboriginal Australians. Colonialism, holocausts, covid, globalization, racial politics all cast a shadow on the lives of the characters in the stories. Consequently, these unacknowledged and unhealed shadows show up in the grief and loss of these lives but somehow there is also release and relief buoyed by the constant and sometimes fleeting presence of birds. 


Before I knew of Merlinda’s book about birds, I had joined the FB group Birdwatch Philippines Community and I’ve been marveling at not only the photos of beautiful birds in my homeland but the palpable love and devotion of bird enthusiasts. It saddens me to remember that I don’t have fond memories of relationships with feathered friends.  Growing up in Pampanga I often saw blackbirds hawked by the roadside but I never stopped to wonder what their names are, who they are, how we are relatives. Thoroughly miseducated, I wasn’t taught how to dwell in place; how to fall in love with the Earth’s non-human beings. Making up for lost time now.


In The Kindness of Birds, the ancestors are also remembered in these stories  where many of them are set in Bicol where Merlinda is also from. The old ones recall the myth of Daragang Magayon and sing the lullaby Dandansoy; they tell the stories of the orioles  who accompany the humans they love all the way to their graves. In the telling of ancient stories, the power of remembrance is invoked and wielded like an amulet for the healing of Loss. The descendants of these ancestors are making their way into a world quite different, in Australia, and knowingly and unknowingly are tracking their ancestral stories to make sense of their lives.


I particularly like the story of Freddy Corpus, a 91-year-old grandson of a Filipino pearl diver and his Yawuru wife, telling of the adventures of pearl diving, of “tenders” (the diver is tethered to a rope that is tended to by a partner so the diver can be pulled up in case of emergency). Listening to him is Nenita who had just returned from the Philippines to bury her 91-year old father who had dreamed of “roaming his eyes around Australia” but never did. 


The Body also speaks in these stories. Cancer. Covid. Quarantine. Restricted travel.  In these stories, the kindness of owls abides alongside the doctors, nurses, and caregivers.  I am reminded of a question that a friend poses as she tends to a dying partner: How do I give him a beautiful death?  In Merlinda’s stories, death and dying can be beautiful because in the company of birds and flowers, we can breathe Joy. Nothing is ultimately tragic in these stories because the world is large and wondrous. 


The Kindness of Birds stands for the invitation of the chthulucene to re-frame and de-center our human-centric story-making to make room for the sideways glance where we might begin to notice the presence of other beings (birds!) and include them in our world-making. Birds, after all, are an older species than humans. Indigenous storytellers always mention that humans are the younger brothers—the last ones to arrive and so must be taught by the creatures before them—the birds, plants, mountains, oceans. Merlinda’s stories in this book do just that.



Leny Mendoza StrobelLeny, when she’s not in the garden or kitchen, reads and doodles or plays games on her phone. She also is a student of Yoga and is learning to let her mind be in her heart. She is a recovering academic. 😍🤪




“Selected Notes, Sources & Acknowledgements” to DOVELION: A Fairy Tale for Our Times by Eileen R. Tabios

(AC Books, New York, 2021)




Working with the constraint of reading the notes to Eileen Tabios’ recently published DoveLion, without reading DoveLion, I approached the notes as a whole body, not an appendage. Letting go of their limited identity as notes, separate but attached, released the temptation to imagine how the notes might be relating to the text, giving spaciousness for this study.


Right away, a whole world opened up. The notes evoke richness and drama tones, and are full of color, forming an intricate, detailed world. I began to consider the notes as a primary source that might offer some glimpses into the inner life of Eileen Tabios. Not so much her “private” life but more peering into the suppleness and flow of her creative/thinking mind.There are so many gems mentioned along the way. A few come to mind: Tabios’, reference to the Dorothy Parker quote, “what fresh hell is this?” while revealing she had formerly attributed the quote to William Shakespeare, the use of the names of her “real life furry babies”, poetry inventions, words at play, and a full spread of seemingly disparate enticing material including high-heeled shoes, pepper torture, Malevich’s black square and money dancing. Going from note to note, some with website links provided, is a kind of raucous journey where starkly distinct geographical, philosophical, mundane and fantastic locales meet at an 14-page crossroads in kaleidoscopic fashion.


Grounded in research mode and considering the notes as primary source, I took time and contemplated the artifacts unearthed. Sometimes a grouping of notes would feel disconnected or distant from one another. Other times entries are so dense and moving that they were their own powerful vignette, stealing the show. One such passage, “Rapunzel, Enrapt” appears on p. 293 and is followed by “Against Disappearance” on p. 294. The notes tell us both are “Rapunzel poems” excerpted from poems in Tabios’ Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole


As with the Rapunzel poems, notes that referenced Tabios’ writings have a lasting impression. On p. 299 the first four notes refer to previously published works: an edited version of the poem ”The Wire Sculpture”, Tabios’ first book published in 1998, a quote from Tabios’ “Faith in the Time of the Coronavirus” and a last line from Tabios’ poem “I Forgot the Logic of Amnesia”. The revisiting of past writing felt like ceremonial harvests, across time and space. These recurrences dipping back and dreaming forward were captivating and illustrated a vast quality brought into focus through detail and interconnection.


Uncovering the innovation of the form “Hay (na) ku” and the chained reverse hay(na)ku poem “The Significance of Perfume” were among the most treasured treasures. But amidst all the enticing bright moments that twist and turn there are the many references to the Philippines. Tabios’ first note that tells us DoveLion comes from Tabios’ “love for the Philippines…that I refuse to define as loss.” Woven throughout the notes are many entries related to the Philippines, cultural, political, artful…like the name Gabby Slang from Gabriela Silang, and the inversions of lumad and garuda. Some are short like where the adobo recipe came from. And others, like the one taking us into the meaning of kapwa reverberate throughout the body of the notes. 


Maraming salamat, Eileen Tabios! These notes feel like kapwa.


~pearl ubungen

Sacred City | pearl ubungen

Occupied Yelamu | San Francisco

10 Noviembre 2021

(Click on image to enlarge)


pearl ubungen began her arts training and performance career with the late, great master artist Ed Mock and was a principal dancer in his last company before Mock’s death of AIDs related causes in 1986. She has also studied ballet with Alonzo King, founder of LINES Ballet, and the late Augusta Moore. Born and raised in San Francisco, Ms. ubungen is a fourth generation Pilipina American, who grew up in San Francisco’s Fillmore and Richmond districts.


During the nineties, Ms. ubungen’s investigations of place/site/memory reinvigorated the field of community-based arts, re-negotiated the boundaries and critical space between activism/art-making/and community engagement, and placed cross-cultural/ intercultural work at the center of the art-making process. Ms. ubungen created many works stemming from her experience of subsequent waves of Pilipino diaspora and her interest in ethnic studies, social history and community engagement. Ms. ubungen founded her company Pearl Ubungen Dancers and Musicians (PUD&M) with Roberto de Haven, saxophonist and minister of the St. John Coltrane Church in San Francisco’s Fillmore district.


Ms. ubungen continues to evolve an embodied artistic praxis called “Diamante” that integrates the view and practice of meditation with improvisation and composition. ubungen is desirous to find/create/support balance between the academic rigor, textuality and extremes of “higher” education with the provocation of lively embodied practices and broader questions of access, mobility/fluidity, and the often times oppressive infrastructure of the built environment.


Ms. ubungen's current collaborations are called: SACRED CITY | pearl ubungen and manifest outside of and occasionally along the fringes of recognized art and performance circles. SACRED CITY | pearl ubungen’s current projects include: Blues Suite, in response to the Atlanta Killings, and Khata: Offering at Lands End, as well as occasional Thursday evening improvisations at the Mercury Cafe with brilliant live music led by percussionist/composer Dave Mihaly. 


Friday, November 26, 2021



Hotel Pacoima by Michael Caylo-Baradi 

(Kelsay Books, American Fork, Utah, USA, 2021)



Michael Caylo-Baradi is an alumnus of The Writers’ Institute at the Graduate Center (CUNY). His work has appeared in numerous literary journals both at home and abroad including Kenyon Review Online, Eunoia Review, Eclectica, Galatea Resurrects, Our Own Voice, Otoliths, Ink Sweat and Tears and Latin American Review of Books. His website is:

A glance at the contents page reveals that the titles of the 34 poems contained in this collection are not expansive but quite precise. Eight are comprised of a single word and a further eleven are just two words. A number indicate the location or setting of the poem as well as its subject matter.

One of the key words in this collection is ‘angels’. The word first appears in the title of a book by Anita Brookner, ‘Bay of Angels’ from which a quotation has been extracted to serve as a prelude in the frontispiece. Brookner’s Bay of Angels is in Nice but Caylo-Baradi’s city is the City of Angels, Los Angeles. The name of the city appears in two of the titles of his poems and in ‘Flight Destinations’ ‘a hail of angels hovers on the margins of a story, / restless for the moral center of its myth.’ Another key word is ‘lake(s)’. In ‘Lacustrine Dwellers’ there are four lakes: Echo Park Lake, Lake Tanganyika, Taal Lake and Lake Titicaca. In ‘Lombardy’ there is Lake Iseo and in ‘Night Swimming’ there is mention of a ‘late-afternoon lake’. ‘Taggers’ references the Hansen Dam, a flood control dam in the Lake View Terrace area of Los Angeles. Unlike the other lakes mentioned in this collection, this one became completely filled with sediment and had to be abandoned. It is now a recreation center. In these poems lakes, like angels, hint at vaster themes. Lakes reflect skies, the sun, moon and stars, they have sedimentary deposits that hold a lot of history, they are not just bodies of standing water. 

While the title of this collection grounds it in a suburb of Los Angeles, the poems have a universal feel about them, moving as they do between the USA, Algeria, Morocco, Italy and the Philippines. His poems traverse multiple continents at a fast pace: one moment we are in the souks and alleyways of Marrakech and the next we are contemplating the importance of maintaining a strong family lineage through the medium of fable in Lombardy. The latter is a classic example of Caylo-Baradi’s multifaceted poetry.

‘Escape’ makes its mark by revolving around patterns. The opening couplets conjure up an image of the geometrical patterns of leaves. Mathematics and Nature collide which should not be a surprise to us since there is a lot of mathematical precision to be found in nature if we only seek it out. The word ‘geometries’ here recalls to mind those properties that are closely bound up with distance, space, size and the relative position of figures:

I join the sound of leaves,

rubbing against


each other’s geometries

in the wind.


The poem then progresses through the pattern of dreams, the pattern of trees in winter, the pattern of moonlight reflected through their bare branches which in turn creates patterns of light and shadow on the ground:


Indeed, trees are masters

in taking apart


moonlight, to create a

tapestry of shadows


around footsteps

begging for directions.


As we find our way through the dark, the line ‘I must believe / in the breadcrumbs now’ reminds us of how Hansel in ‘Hansel and Gretel’ left a trail of breadcrumbs, as they journeyed through the wood so that they would be able to find their way back again. There is the pattern of footsteps and the pattern of breadcrumbs, a pattern of silhouettes and, as the poem closes, the pattern of falling leaves on their downward flight in the fall.


This is but one example of the way in which these poems work. Another is to be found in ‘Age of Permutations’ which is short enough to quote in full:


There are nights his doubts splinter into

legs in mini-skirt, with lipstick glossy as rivers in sunset.

They cup nights in coffee, stretch them in car-chases

at a multiplex, before their moons huddle

in creased bed-sheets and glasses of wine.


When not legs, nights take shape

of hollow moons, the way leggy lips approximate

pasts that refuse remembrance. He keeps a small

museum of them, nights

of engagements and repose,


like how some images flirt into his viewfinder’s line

of sight, unplanned, and become memorable

as shattered certainties.


The keyword here is ‘permutations’: it is in many respects one of the hallmarks of Caylo-Baradi’s poetry which is a poetry of constant and often surprising change. This poem is loaded with possibilities: there are ‘doubts’ which means that nothing is clear-cut or set in stone. ‘Sunsets’ are never constants. They are always changing colour. ‘Car-chases’ are always on the move until the final denouement. ‘Moons’ wax and wane. ‘Glasses of wine’ could be half full or half empty. Keeping ‘a museum’ of all these moments is one way of trying to preserve things that are, in reality, ephemeral. The last three lines of the poem demonstrate just how fragile and random all these things really are. The imagery in this poem is also of interest. I like the way Caylo-Baradi progresses his lines and images by association. Look at the phrase ‘with lipstick glossy as rivers in sunset’ and think of the associations that may have led to this phrase: lipstick – lip gloss –liquid – river – surface sheen – red – sunset. Other phrases, such as ‘they cup nights in coffee’ surprise and delight. The idea of putting ‘night’ into a cup of coffee works here because we understand the meaning but savour the order in which he has chosen to place his words.


At other moments, he writes with such clarity and elegance about everyday occurrences that even the most mundane matters seem elevated in his hands. Here is a section from ‘Flight Destinations’:


A glass of milk departs a dining table,

destined for patterns on the floor that hold

a child’s delirious giggles. His tiny

fingers reach for something in the air,

perhaps for other sounds, still oblivious

of maternal patience cleaning up another mess,

another challenge testing single parenthood.


The descriptive images in this slim collection are full of surprises. In ‘Cruising Country’ endless green fields are described as being ‘vast as boredom uninterrupted’ and music from the car radio is like ‘7pm dinner without frills’. In ‘Neighborhood Watch’ ‘sneakers dangling / from wires look like repositories / of unfettered playfulness & / optimism’ and in ‘Smooth Criminal’, ‘Diana was a bee from our yard, / hanging out on flowers like someone pollinating / backstage doors with unusual charm.’


One of the prose poems near the end of the collection bears the title ‘Breathing Exercises at a Dumpsite in Manila’. The title in itself has a shock element contained within it. A dumpsite yielding toxic fumes from burning plastic and other waste is not the kind of place where one would want to engage in breathing exercises. The text teems with ‘viral mutations desperate for fresh hosts to hibernate on’. It is a reminder of the terrible way waste is disposed of, often imported from the West, with no consideration for the population of the country it is being sent to. Here, both humans and animals scour the dump for pickings. There are wider implications here when one considers the Jonsonian Moscas, Corvinos and Corbaccios of this world whose Italian names translate as flies, crows and ravens. These parasites are always on the lookout for a new find that is far removed from the real plight of the poor who have no option but to sort through other people’s refuse in order to eke out a meagre living.


The healing power of nature is powerfully demonstrated in ‘Geraniums’, a prose poem in three short paragraphs of roughly equal length. Bonding with the geraniums is an escape mechanism from the trials and tribulations of an implied difficult relationship:


‘Geranium red is deep-red like blood: loud and full of spectacle, like my mother’s voice. My father spends a cup of coffee with these flowers in the morning, then leaves them alone.’


Geraniums, especially red ones, symbolize hope for a lovelier future, a future of some normalcy and beauty.


Whether he is writing about beauty pageants as a symbol of national identity or focussing on the intimacies of his home and family, this is an exciting collection of poetry in which the familiar is revisited in a new narrative using language that is both fresh and invigorating. Highly recommended.




Neil Leadbeater is an author, essayist, poet and critic living in Edinburgh, Scotland. His short stories, articles and poems have been published widely in anthologies and journals both at home and abroad. His books include Hoarding Conkers at Hailes Abbey (Littoral Press, 2010), Librettos for the Black Madonna (White Adder Press, 2011); The Worcester Fragments (Original Plus, 2013); The Loveliest Vein of Our Lives (Poetry Space, 2014); Finding the River Horse (Littoral Press, 2017); Penn Fields (Littoral Press, 2019) and Reading Between The Lines (Littoral Press, 2020). His work has been translated into French, Dutch, Nepali, Romanian, Spanish and Swedish.




We Are No Longer Babaylan: Essays & Stories by Elsa Valmidiano 

(New Rivers Press, Minneapolis, 2020)



Before my review, a confession: I was afraid to read We Are No Longer Babaylan by Elsa Valmidiano. 

I personally know Elsa. I have had interactions with her, in person and via social media. Elsa has encouraged and supported me in my creative writings. Like me, she knows the struggle of working as an attorney when one’s passion lies somewhere else. She lives in a neighborhood close to where I used to live. She’s roughly my age (I think), 5’0”, 100ish pounds, with brown skin and straight black hair. 

I was afraid to read the words of somebody who feels familiar.

When this fear first came up, I asked myself why. Don’t we long to read works that reflect to us parts of our reality? Isn’t this what we want, to be seen and feel that we matter? Isn’t this one of the major reasons why I write--to shed light on my experiences and, in the process, become visible? 

So then why be afraid of reading the experiences of someone who looks like me? 

It was as if Elsa already anticipated my fear. Her piece, "Be, Not Be," answered my conundrum.

“Being… five feet tall, one hundred pounds, size zero frame, brown skin, with long straight black hair, lean arms, lean legs, small breasts, almond-shaped eyes, black eyes, long straight lashes, carved cheekbones, button nose, small hands, small feet—

love it

hate it

tired of it

could use a little bit more of it

would like to put it away sometime


and just 

not be.”

This is exactly how I feel about being in this body that I have. I want to be but sometimes I also don’t want to be. I see value in reading about the beautiful experiences of someone who looks like me but I also sometimes don’t care to because it’s too real, too upsetting, too triggering. 

Elsa talks about the female body in all its glory, brokenness, and beauty. I want to look away because the brown petite body she describes is like mine. In "Mommy’s Two Belly Buttons," for example, she tells us a story about tubal ligations, abortions, giving birth, c-sections, contraception, periods, breast lumps and cysts, and even yeast and urinary tract infections. I feel vulnerable. These are things about my body that I, and we as a society, don’t usually talk about so openly.  

I feel just as vulnerable reading "Blighted." I remember my own personal moments of invasion by speculums and not-so-magical wands. In my act of remembering these unhappy spaces, I push back:  I get that our stories matter but what is the point of telling another story of abuse, rape, violence against bodies like mine? A part of me wants to refuse to tell any more stories like this, to be seen in this light. Why remember and then tell of these times?

And, again, it seems Elsa has anticipated my questions. “I surrender my memories as if they mean something, when they simply could be triggers for a time we both want to forget…. I make myself remember to forgive the girl I used to be.”

And it’s in this last line I find the best reason to not be afraid of and instead celebrate this collection of stories and essays that make me both want to stop but also keep on reading. When I read this collection, I remember so much of my own youthful bodily joys and traumas. And, as in "Postcard," I am reminded to forgive myself for those times when I was complicit in the oppression of my own body, to be kind to myself, and allow myself to just be… or not.




Justine Villanueva traces her ancestral roots to the Bukidnon tribe of Kalasungay, Bukidnon. Her creative work focuses on decolonization, social justice, and reconnecting with the living Earth. She writes children's books and is the founder of Sawaga River Press, a nonprofit press that publishes children's books featuring Filipino children in the diaspora and their experiences. She lives in the Patwin-Wintun territory in Davis, California with her husband and two sons. Find her at