Friday, April 29, 2022


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"


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

Submission deadline for the 14th issue has been set at Nov. 15, 2022 (though we will take reviews sooner than the deadline if that is more convenient for the reviewers).

(April  2022)

Editor's Note:  Welcome to the 13th 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. 


100 Pink Poems para ka Leni/for Leni edited by Noel Romero del Prado, Emmanuel Quintos Velasco and Krip Yuson (San Anselmo Press, Philippines, 2022)

Engaged by Eileen Tabios

The Son of Good Fortune by Lysley Tenorio (Ecco/Harper Collins, 2020)

Reviewed by Michael Caylo-Baradi


The short story “Here Be Dragons” from The Infinite Library and Other Stories by Victor Fernando R. Ocampo (Gaudy Boy, Singapore, 2021)

Reviewed by Justine Villanueva

Witness in the Convex Mirror by Eileen R. Tabios (TinFish Press, Hawai'i, 2019)

Engaged by Leny M. Strobel


Letters To A Young Brown Girl by Barbara Jane Reyes (BOA Editions Ltd., Rochester, NY, 2020)

Reviewed by Neil Leadbeater

FE: A Traumatized Son's Graphic Memoir by Bren Bataclan (Philippine American Writers and Artists Inc., 2020)

Reviewed by Elizabeth Ann Quirino


Marka Demonyo by Lourd De Veyra (Anvil, Philippines, 2020)

Reviewed by Aloysiusi Polintan

GO HERE for "Hot Take" reviews of

FORTH by Rosmon Tuazon, Trans. by Ben Aguilar (Balangay Books, 2021); Pesoa by Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles, Trans. by Kristine Ong Muslim (Balangay Books, 2021); Tangere by Rodrigo V. Dela Peña (UP Press, 2020); Pag-aaral sa Oras: Mga Lumang Tula Tungkol sa Bago by Kerima Lorena Tariman (High Chair, 2017); Lahat ng Nag-aangas Ay Inaagnas by Paolo Tiausas (UWU Books, 2020); and Maging Sa Silid: Mga Tula by Vanessa Haro (Self-Published, 2021) 

Reviewed by Eric Abalajon

GO HERE for Flash Reviews of

Banana Heart Summer by Merlinda Bobis (Anvil, 2020 reprint); The Kindness of Birds by Merlinda Bobis (Spinifex Press, Queensland, Australia, 2021); Wing of the Locust by Joel Donato Ching Jacob (Scholastic, 2020); City Stories by Angelo R. Lacuesta (Bughaw, Philippines, 2019); Ruins and Reconstructions by Joel M Toledo (Anvil, Philippines, 2011); Poems sing kwenta y cinco by Alfred Yuson (2010, Anvil) 

Reviewed by Aloysiusi Polintan


Angela Narciso Torres / What Happens Is Neither


Go HERE to read:

Leny Strobel on Greg Sarris

Eileen Tabios on Nick Carbó


"David Medalla: In Memoriam (1938-2020)" by Rene J. Navarro

Filipino Poets on Ukraine

Go HERE to read:


Acts of War” by Aileen Cassinetto

“February” by Luisa A. Igloria

“What the Poets Are Saying About the War” by Luisa A. Igloria


“KILL RATE & KITTENS” by Marne Kilates

“Wife of Russian Soldier tells him, ‘You go there, rape Ukrainian women, but use condoms!’” by Eileen R. Tabios

“Shrapnel” by Alfred A. Yuson


Political Love by Eileen R. Tabios (Booksby Press, Parma, Ohio, 2021)

Reviewed by Neil Leadbeater



100 Pink Poems para ka Leni/for Leni edited by Noel Romero del Prado, Emmanuel Quintos Velasco and Krip Yuson

(San Anselmo Publications, Philippines, 2022)



100 Pink Poems para ka Leni/for Leni, edited by Noel Romero del Prado, Emmanuel Quintos Velasco and Krip Yuson, is an existential project for the Philippines. The country is at a significant crossroads as regards the Philippine elections next month whose outcome will determine its next President. Among the leading candidates, Bongbong Marcos rides on the coattails of his dictator-father Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. Another, Leni Robredo, is the leading light for this book under review. Marcos, Jr. represents the sordid past that aborted a once promising developmental future for the Philippines and whose unearned leadership would result only from hardened corrupt and elitist practices. Robredo, on the other hand, would represent the country’s admirably stubborn and hopeful search for a more uplifting way of life for its citizens.


For this future, it’s difficult to ascertain the significance of a book of poetry. Perhaps it’s enough—perhaps it’s a lot—to note how Robredo’s support, always grass roots oriented, moved enough Filipino poets worldwide to create this project of 100 poems delivered to her as a Valentine’s Day gift earlier this year.


But if one is to be objective, one should consider this book a paradox. Though it’s on about its 8th or 9th printing, it will be read by an infinitesimal percentage of Filipinos. I read online that it’s the top poetry bestseller in the country’s history, a fact I can’t confirm but whose value I've seen questioned since poetry books generally don’t sell or are distributed in munificent numbers. Yet this book is a significant achievement as it is another layer to the multi-layered support for Leni Robredo’s Presidential candidacy where each individual support may be small but contribute to a sum much larger than the totality of its parts. This is significant as I believe (as of April 27 when I wrote this review) that Leni Robredo will be the next President of the Philippines. Not that long ago, I remember when the polls clearly said she faced huge odds against attaining her campaign’s goal.


Turning then to the actual poems, political support is overwhelmingly the raison d’etre for this project. Nonetheless, the book provides sufficient literary sunshine to remind how poetry is worthy of our attention. Here are three sample poems that moved me in particular—which is not to say they’re the “best” poems as such assessments are subjective and differ per reader. Still, as a book reviewer, I’m moved to highlight the following poems, and thank their authors for writing them. A caveat needs to be that I could only assess the English-language poems as I am not fluent in Pilipino. But here are English poems I hope you, too, will enjoy:


“Sonnet 13: Ways of Lookin at a Pink Rose” by Joel Vega

“Jesse’s Poem” by Jose Dalisay (Jesse is the name of the husband to Leni Robredo who also is a widow)

“Parol” by Justine Camacho-Tajonera


I will feature the poems below but before doing so, I wish to share Leni Robredo’s response that was featured in the anthology’s 6th edition (click on images to enlarge):


Robredo’s response ultimately deems the project successful since, regardless of election outcome, she can receive the gratitude of people who understand that to run for office in the context of how the Philippines chooses its political leadership is an arduous—and often dirty—undertaking. Maraming Salamat, Ma’am Leni Robredo.



Three Sample Poems:


Eileen R. Tabios has released over 60 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in 10 countries and cyberspace. In 2022 she releases the poetry collection Because I Love You, I Become War; a book-length essay Kapwa’s Novels; and her second French book, Double Take (trans. Fanny Garin). Her 2021 books include her first novel DoveLion: A Fairy Tale for Our Times and first French book La Vie erotique de l’art (trans. Samuel Rochery). Her award-winning body of work includes invention of the hay(na)ku, a 21st century diasporic poetic form; the MDR Poetry Generator that can create poems totaling theoretical infinity; the “Flooid” poetry form that’s rooted in a good deed; and a first poetry book, Beyond Life Sentences, which received the Philippines’ National Book Award for Poetry. Translated into 11 languages, she also has edited, co-edited or conceptualized 15 anthologies of poetry, fiction and essays. Her writing and editing works have received recognition through awards, grants and residencies. More information is at