Tuesday, April 6, 2021


 This Feature presents readers sharing some love about the talent of Filipino writers and artists. We would welcome your participation. This section is for readers. You don't have to write "like a professional," "like a critic," "like an intellectual," "like a well-rounded reader," etc. Just write honestly about how you were moved. Live writers and artists (let alone the dead) don't get to hear enough from others who engage with their works (some may not even know all who comprise their audience). To know someone read their stories and poems or appreciated their artistry is to receive a gift. Just share from your heart. It will be more than enough. DEADLINE: Nov. 15, 2021 for Issue #12. Duplications of authors/artists and more than one testimonial are fine.

Mangozine's Issue #11 Presents

*    Maileen Hamto on Ninotchka Rosca
*    Elizabeth Ann Quirino on Arlene J. Chai
*    Eileen Tabios on Therese Estacion
*    Maileen Hamto on Lily Mendoza
*    Elizabeth Ann Quirino on Deborah Francisco Douglas
*    Leny M. Strobel on Eileen Tabios
*    Maileen Hamto on Grace Nono

Maileen Hamto on Ninotchka Rosca

Saludo po for Madame Ninotchka Rosca, whose revolutionary and revelatory writings about the ills of power-hungry despots in the Philippines have sustained dissension and opposition among multiple generations of devotees to our beloved Pilipinas and kababayans. Her courageous and unrelenting reporting and advocacy for the Filipino urban poor and indigenous communities spotlight the abuses of a maniacal and murderous regime — first, Marcos and now, Duterte. Her words and work have inspired activists and organizers to keep fighting the good fight. State of War is a must-read for anyone needing a reminder about the damage wrought by sovereign power, leaders whose lust for money, power and fame result in complete disregard for human life. Amid death and destruction, hope is never lost. 


Elizabeth Ann Quirino on Arlene J. Chai

Black Hearts by Arlene J. Chai*—I couldn’t put this book down, I wanted to know all the secrets at once.

Sometimes, family isn’t what you think it is. This is an intense, riveting novel of three women, the cruel, malevolent aunt, and her orphaned nieces. The wealthy aunt raised the girls after their parents died. Throughout their lives, the sisters are thrust in the deep, dark secrets of the family, that inevitably shape them and what is found in their hearts. Are women as strong as they can be or as weak as they seem? Find out in Black Hearts by Arlene J. Chai (Random House). 

(*Author: Arlene J. Chai, Filipino-Australian writer, author of 3 other bestsellers, is based in Australia. Previously, she worked as a copywriter and creative director, in some of the top notch ad agencies in Manila.) 


Eileen Tabios on Therese Estacion

I discovered Therese Estacion’s poems when Melinda Luisa de Jesus posted an article about her on Facebook: “Phantompains poetry collection takes on disability, grief and life”. Therese had lost both legs below the knees, several fingers and her reproductive organs to a bacteria, fusobacterium necroophorum. What I appreciated in the article (written by Avery Zingel) was how Therese said she overcame her discomfort with writing about her disability through her use of Filipino horror and folktales, like mermen, gnomes and ogres. The result includes a first poetry collection, Phantompains (Book*hug Press, 2021). Here is the sample poem that made me a fan:


I appreciate Therese’s way of inserting Pilipino and English phrases; the latter is in grey while the Pilipino remains in black. Based on the colors, the resulting Pilipino text may be considered privileged over the English translation—I appreciate that approach for making the poem accessible to non-Pilipino readers even as the Pilipino should be privileged (thus in black) as the diction seems more appropriate, in part because there is an energy in the original language that is not always fully translated, e.g. “mag sayaw sayaw siya ug mag hubo” to “dances and gets drunk.” Say the Pilipino phrase out loud phonetically and you might see how that’s more sonically pungent than the English phrase.


I also appreciate Therese’s use of caesuras that could indicate absence, such as the absence of what parts of her body she’d lost to the disease. What this means, thus, is that the poem presents a body with spaces denoting absence and yet succeeds in being “whole”—that is, a poem complete into itself. I suspect that such is the case, too, with Therese because, as the article says, she was able to find “self-love, after a rare infection stole her limbs but not her life.” Here is a poet whose poetry succeeds in being as inspirational as the poet’s life.



Maileen Hamto on Lily Mendoza

Pagmamahal to Ka Lily Mendoza, who pours love for indigenous tribes and communities in the Philippines by bringing together Filipino/x in the diaspora who are making meaning of their cultural inheritance. Back from the Crocodile’s Belly: Philippine Babaylan Studies and the Struggle for Indigenous Memory is itself a love note to and for decolonizing and indigenizing kapwa who are creating and remembering the ways and knowledge of our ancestors. Decoloniality is more than an intellectual exercise; it requires the fullness of our being to embody the future of Pinay identities, to honor our families and communities in the homeland. Salamat po, Ka Lily, for your wise counsel.


Elizabeth Ann Quirino on Deborah Francisco Douglas

Somewhere In the Middle by Deborah Francisco Douglas—I realized so many feelings I have had all along after I read this memoir. Many of us who’ve lived abroad so long, ask ourselves: Are we Filipino? Or are we American? 

The confusion and lost identity affect Filipinos in the diaspora, like it or not. Author Deborah Francisco Douglas, a US Peace Corps volunteer assigned to the Philippines, tried to find out and answers that question in her memoir Somewhere In the Middle: A Journey to the Philippines In Search of Roots, Belonging and Identity (Peaceful Mountain Press 2019).


Leny M. Strobel on Eileen Tabios

From a Journal Entry:

8AM: I finished re-reading DoveLion. This time noticing not just the plot but the structure of the novel and then its forays into art, philosophy, poetry, orphanhood and adoption, politics and power (CIA!), sex, and more. In an interview, Eileen said that she wants to educate herself on everything including topics that are not of personal interest. 

Poetry is alive just as Stories are alive and live in the Body. 

And just like before, I am mesmerized by the power of language, of poetry, of consciousness writ large in these pages where Kapwa-time is ’scrunched’ to draw a singular life (Elena’s) that is embedded in a context larger than the CIA, larger than the machinations of power, larger than the lens of modern history…to then return me, the reader, to a more primordial awareness of how our destiny may already be written in the cosmic playbook.

The future is indigenous.


Maileen Hamto on Grace Nono

Maraming salamat to Grace Nono for modeling ways to engage indigenous communities in the homeland with utmost respect. In the Song of the Babaylan: Living Voices, Medicines, Spiritualities of Philippine Ritualist-oralist-healers, Grace explicitly names the great care she has taken in honoring and upholding protocols that prioritize dignity and community agency. Grace hosted one of the most memorable virtual gatherings during the global pandemic. As COVID-19 ravaged the livelihoods of many tribal members in indigenous communities in the Philippines, Grace Nono actively connected with elders to find out what they need, and how she can help. The result was a beautifully rendered virtual concert that offered songs of healing and restoration, and allowed viewers to make offerings to katutubo elders. 


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