Thursday, December 1, 2022


 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: April 15, 2023 for Issue #15. Duplications of authors/artists and more than one testimonial are fine.

Mangozine's Issue #14 Presents

Vina Orden on Gina Apostol

Elizabeth Ann Quirino on Malaka Gharib

Vina Orden on Gina Apostol


(Photo by Margarita Corporan)

I fancied myself a bibliomane given my fondness of books/book piling. But after reading your debut novel, released for the first time in the US in January, I had to upgrade my condition to “bibliolept,” at least with regard to Filipino/a/* writers. My symptoms include scouring “best books” lists and leaving excoriating comments with those who fail to list our books and writers (hello, NPR, which in 2020 didn’t list a single Filipino/a/* writer despite the publication of Meredith Talusan’s Fairest; Laurel Flores Fantauzzo’s My Heart Under Water; Lysley Tenorio’s The Son of Good Fortune, recently optioned for a comedy series by Amazon Studios; and Rick Barot’s The Galleons, longlisted for the National Book Awards, among others that year) and effusive comments with those who consistently do (hello, New York Public Library); also, quietly asking someone to take down a social media post mixing up the identities of two Filipina writers before they “canceled” the wrong one …


I loved reading your Bibliolepsy for the narrative voice as well as for its insights into what piqued your curiosity as a nineteen-year-old writer. Growing up in the Philippines, I recall there wasn’t a public library system, and the cost of a paperback book was the equivalent of a meal for an entire family. I think being a reader might require more ambition than being a writer in the Philippines. One must be creative and resourceful like Primi and her paramours in Bibliolepsy as well as your younger self—downloading/making “fair use” copies of books or scouring used book stalls or the British Council. You wrote the article “Bookstore Days” in 1994, where you describe your daily constitutional to the British Council, walking past Katipunan Avenue and the “small eatery with a pet monkey in a window and a crippled man by the door.” I thought immediately of Stephen Dedalus’ ramblings through the streets of Dublin (which of course, as a bibliolept, I retraced during my first visit to the city in 2009).


Someone asked me what I thought of The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata and seemed vexed when I said it reminded me of James Joyce’s Ulysses. There are commonalities of themes—both novels are set at the turn of the 19th century at the waning of the Spanish empire in the Philippines and the British empire in Ireland; and the Philippines and Ireland are predominantly Catholic countries. But more striking is what you do as writers. Through satire, social criticism stands in relief. You invite readers to engage with the text on different levels. Both Raymundo Mata and Ulysses are inter-/hypertextual in nature (hence Estrella Espejo, Mimi Magsalin, and Diwata Drake’s footnotes/precursors to subtweets and the Ulysses kodigo), with Raymundo Mata sending the reader off to explore the original texts by Rizal and other Philippine Revolutionary figures like Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini, and Emilio Aguinaldo. Using unreliable narrators, you compel the reader to question and think about what they’re reading—a lesson in media literacy, sorely needed at a time when society seems to no longer be able to make distinctions between entertainment and matters of serious consideration, fact and fiction, truth and lies.


In October, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and remembered that you had gone through it yourself nine years ago. I’m indebted to Nerissa Balce for recommending your essay “Transparency: Relieving the Body of Despair,” along with Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals—not only to help me anticipate the impact of cancer on my personal life, but also to consider and even set some intentions about the kind of journey I’m about to make. What struck me in your essay was how you connected cancer and “the body, the geographic, and the politic”—while you were undergoing chemotherapy, you were organizing volunteer relief efforts in your hometown of Tacloban in the wake of typhoon Yolanda as well as researching your novel Insurrecto. You identified knowledge as the antidote—even managing to tie it back to literature and to Rizal, the eye doctor who was aware that “noli me tangere was also a term for an inoperable cancer, a fatal cataract that was his symbol for a darkened country. But he wrote the novel to open people’s eyes—to let them know.”


When I think about the trajectory of my life in recent years—leaving behind my last full-time job and a well-paying career as a fundraiser five years ago, aligning and slowly building myself back up as a human rights activist and creative person, and in the past year, beginning to manifest my goals and dreams as a writer—I wonder why I’m not angrier, why I’m not wallowing in self-pity about a cancer diagnosis that threatens to derail an already tenuous midlife reset. But then I realize how much the pattern of my life has changed and that isolation and an inward focus won’t be my response to cancer. I think about what Audre Lorde says, “without community there is certainly no liberation, no future, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between me and my oppression.” I think about how you choose to view the personal as political. And I’m grateful for all the ways you’ve shown me how to be in this moment through your writing, activism, and friendship.


Elizabeth Ann Quirino on Malaka Gharib


It Won’t Always Be Like This by Malaka Gharib

(Ten Speed Press/ September 2022)

Paperback/ 224 pages


In her latest graphic memoir, It Won’t Always Be Like This, Malaka Gharib, NPR journalist, explores transformations in her life from childhood, to her teenage years through early adulthood. As a Filipino American girl growing up with her Egyptian father’s new family, Malaka tells us how she spent her summers away from where she grew up in California. With her own whimsical, thoughtful illustrations, and eloquent storytelling, Malaka brings clarity to what perplexes us all – that life is fleeting and change is inevitable. This is a poignant, touching, beautiful story about growing up in a family of different cultures, and everything is tied together with what binds us all: love.

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