Friday, May 19, 2023

THE HALO-HALO REVIEW'S MANGOZINE--ISSUE 15

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


Submission deadline for the 16th issue has been set at Nov. 15, 2023 (though we will take reviews sooner than the deadline if that is more convenient for the reviewers).

ISSUE 15
(May  2023)

Editor's Note:  Welcome to the 15th 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. 

I.  NEW REVIEWS AND ENGAGEMENTS

When the Hibiscus Falls by M. Evelina Galang (Coffee House Press, 2023)

Engaged by Eileen Tabios


The Mythology Class: Where Philippine Legends Become Reality by Arnold Arre (Tuttle Publishing, 2022)

Reviewed by Maileen Hamto


Waking Up to the Pattern Left by a Snail Overnight by Jim Pascual Agustin (Gaudy Boy LLC / Singapore Unbound, New York, 2023)

Engaged by Eileen Tabios


Filipinx: Heritage Recipes from the Diaspora by Angela Dimayuga and Ligaya Mishan (Abrams, 2021)

Reviewed by Maileen Hamto


Trese vol. 1:  Murder on Balete Drive (Issues 1-4) by Budgette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo (Ablaze, 2020)

Reviewed by Eric Smith


The Mountain That Grew by Alfred A. Yuson with art/design by Marcel Antonio and Ilana Antonio (San Anselmo Publications, Philippines, 2022)
Engaged by Eileen Tabios

Boy Wander: A Coming of Age Memoir by Jobert E. Abueva (Rattling Good Yarns Press, LLC, 2023)

Reviewed by Maileen Hamto


Go HERE for Flash reviews of The Promise of the Foreign: Nationalism and the Technics of Translation in the Spanish Philippines by Vicente L. Rafael (ADMU Press, 2005); Sky Blue After the Rain: Selected Stories and Tales by Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo (University of the Philippines Press, 2005)The Light in One’s Blood: Select Poems, 1973-2020 by Gemino H. Abad (University of the Philippines Press, 2021); Tikim: Essays on Philippine Food and Culture by Doreen Fernandez (Anvil, 2020); All the Conspirators by Carlos Bulosan (Anvil, 2001); and MOTHERLESS TONGUES: The Insurgency of Language amid Wars of Translation by Vicente L. Rafael (ADMU Press, 2016).

Reviewed by Aloysiusi Polintan



II. AUTHOR INTERVIEWS, POST-BOOK

Lara Stapleton: The Ruin of Everything



III. READERS SHOW SOME LOVE TO FILIPINO AUTHORS

Go HERE to read:

Eileen Tabios on Ina Cariño
Eileen Tabios on Hari Alluri
Elizabeth Ann Quirino on Claude Tayag, Michaela Fenix, and Ige Ramos
Leny Strobel on Gilda Cordero-Fernando
Eric Smith on Paolo Chikiamco and Mervin Alonzo

Eileen Tabios on Monica Macansantos

Leny Strobel on Patrick Rosal

Eileen Tabios on Patricia Manuel Go




IV.  FEATURES


"Meeting Cecilia Brainard and Her Books" (with a nod to Veronica Montes' fictions) by Rachielle Ragasa Shuffler


"Indigenous Futurism and DOVELION by Eileen R. Tabios" by Denise Low


"A Postmortem of Ang Maghuhurno" by Cymbeline Villamin




V. FROM OFFLINE TO ONLINE/REPRINTS


Introduction to Ang Maghuhurno by Cymbeline R. Villamin (8Letters Bookstore and Publishing, Philippines, 2023) by Joi Barrios


Introduction to KAPWA'S NOVELS by Eileen R. Tabios (Booksby Press, Ohio, 2022)






WHEN THE HIBISCUS FALLS by M. EVELINA GALANG

 EILEEN TABIOS Engages


When the Hibiscus Falls by M. Evelina Galang

(Coffee House Press, 2023)

 

BOOK LINK 

 

This is a book where the very first sentence rocked/rocks me. I read it and had to pause for a meaningful while to meditate over it:

 

“No one ever gets the story right.”

 

If, from that first sentence, you immediately go to the book’s last story, you’d glean the brilliance with which the book was organized, which is to say, conceptualized.

 

But let’s pause to laugh, though (well, I laugh). “No one ever gets the story right,” M. Evelina Galang states in her new short story collection, When the Hibiscus Falls. Then she proceeds to deliver a solid collection of 17 short stories. As the first short story proclaims with its title, Strength is the Woman. Strong enough for this woman-author to hold onto contradictions without being taken down by them.

 

Psychic strength was clearly required to write these stories revolving around generations of Filipino women in the U.S. and the Philippines, and the roles they play: daughters, sisters, mothers, aunties, cousins, lolas, and friends. My personal favorite may be “Hilot of Paranaque” for eliciting the most empathy from me. But that it has this effect is not a good thing: I empathize most with this story because I’ve met or know of too many women who have had to sacrifice themselves to leave the Philippines and, as they say, go abroad in order to finance better lives for themselves and/or their families. There can never be enough stories about this type of sacrifice.

 

The title story, “When the Hibiscus Falls,” is powerful—it made me meditate on the specific nature of girls. As affirmed by my own childhood (I was obedient until I was not), I observe that when “good girls” rebel, their rebellion is more voluminous if not violent than that of the preternal mischief-makers or disobedient girls. Mayari was a bookworm/Ph.D. student who researched her people’s culture—the demigods mga ahas, duwende, aswang, muto as well as babaylans—but became “mean” to her own family. “Whatever blossom Moon Goddess planted in that girl died a long time ago.” I am often saddened by how girls growing up undergo a uniquely challenging process—this may be a non-ethnic situation, but color the matter with immigrant / diasporic characters and the results can be exploding volcanos.

 

I observe in several of these written stories an “oral” quality, by which the writing doesn’t generally have a propulsive momentum but presents itself in a way to make the reader linger. The effect is like oral storytelling where the speaker is constantly checking the audience to make sure s/he is keeping their interest. It’s also respectful in tone: the storyteller is sharing a story, versus telling it at the audience/reader. In “Loud Girl,” this approach is particularly effective for magnifying the effect of its killer-ending as Galang deftly integrates an unexpected reference to World War II’s effect on the protagonist’s father. Well done—one can’t, after all, get away from history.

 

Indeed, one of the strengths of the stories is the unexpected integration of particular details. In “Fighting Filipina,” which fictionalizes the unforgettable story of an elderly Chinese woman caught fighting back against those who attacked her (and I am grateful Galang reminds us readers of this powerful and poignant real story), Galang raises anti-Black racism and the Black Lives Matter movement. The protagonist’s grandmother lacks empathy or sympathy:

 

                        “Naku, anak,” Lola said, holding up her hand. “Hindi ka itim.”


                        “You don’t have to be Black to care, Lola. You can be an ally…”

 

Anti-black racism among certain Filipinos is an old story. I am reminded of it whenever I observe the popularity of whitening soap and other products. If I hung out on street corners, I sooner or later would shout, “People! It’s the 21stcentury! Accept your Brownness!” One of the most irritating exports in C- and K-dramas that enjoy global popularity is the ubiquitous whitening masks. Masks! Get it?  But I digress…

 

A different type of detail surfaces in “Loud Girl” related to Connie Chung (are Galang and I dating ourselves here, btw? I’m amused, but again I digress…):

 

            “You still want to major in journalism?”

            “I was thinking about it.” She put her sunglasses on

            “You could be the next Connie Chung,” he said.

            “Print journalism, Dad. Not television.” People were always telling her she would be the next Connie Chung, a talking head with a helmet of black hair and skin the color of rice paper.

 

Does every Asian American girl with aspirations to be a journalist have a Connie Chung moment? I certainly do, and it’s similar to what Galang describes above. Journalism was my first career—but print journalism, like the story’s primary protagonist Karo. I spent one high school semester interning at a local news station where I had a similar experience as described in “Loud Girl.” The flattening of individualism continues to be a potent force, and it stinks. 

 

As I noted in the beginning of this review, Galang’s organizational structure is admirable. The 17 stories begin and end with the bookends of rewritten myths. The first, “Strength is the Woman,” rewrites a Filipino origin story that mentions the first woman to be “Maganda,” or Beautiful, and the first man to be “Malakas,” or Strong. In Galang’s retelling, the first woman is not named but when a bird describes her as beautiful, she gives the bird the evil eye while Malakas says, “No, you stupid bird. She is strong.”

 

The ensuing stories then explain why to be a woman must be to be strong.

 

The last story, “Isla of the Babaylan," enacts Galang’s advice as a babaylan, a term that refers to indigenous Filipino healers and community leaders. Here, the enemy are the Spaniards who colonized the island (not a stretch since Spain was the Philippines’ colonial masters for three centuries). But recovery is possible—redemption awaits. But one has to “Honor yourself. Be yourself.” How? First, one must go Home to one’s self. I came back to myself

 

For centuries, sages have counseled for good reason: Be true to yourself. The world can be difficult but even in suffering, don’t lose yourself. That seems as good a remedy as any. It’s not a stretch to believe there are others out there who can find a healing of sorts in When the Hibiscus Falls. Galang further reminds, when the gumamela—the hibiscus—flower falls because it only lasts one day, a new flower replaces the old one the next day. So, girls, fall if you must—and perhaps to live is to fall—but also survive into the next blossoming. I wish for you the specific beauty of Strength.



*****



Eileen R. Tabios has released over 70 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers around the world. In 2023, she releases the poetry collection Because I Love You, I Become War; an autobiography, The Inventor; and a flash fiction collection collaboration with harry k stammer, Getting To One.  Other recent books include a first novel DoveLion: A Fairy Tale for Our Times; two French books, PRISES (Double Take) (trans. Fanny Garin) and La Vie erotique de l’art (trans. Samuel Rochery); and a book-length essay Kapwa’s Novels. 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; and the “Flooid” poetry form that’s rooted in a good deed. Translated into 12 languages, she also has edited, co-edited or conceptualized 15 anthologies of poetry, fiction and essays. More information is at http://eileenrtabios.com 



Thursday, May 18, 2023

THE MYTHOLOGY CLASS: WHERE PHILIPPINE LEGENDS BECOME REALITY by ARNOLD ARRE

 MAILEEN HAMTO Reviews

 


The Mythology Class: Where Philippine Legends Become Reality, graphic novel by Arnold Arre 

(Tuttle Publishing, 2022)

 

BOOK LINK 

 

The Philippines has always had vibrant storytelling and art traditions. As a medium for folklore to take hold within a new generation, the graphic novel offers an approachable way to tap beliefs and ways of knowing grounded in culture and tradition. Tuttle Publishing’s release of Arnold Arre’s The Mythology Class brings the classic Philippine graphic novel to a global audience. The story follows the adventures of college student Nicole Lacson and her friends in a quest to hold off an ancient evil. As they learn more about the looming threat, they encounter mythological beings of tribal lore. Each confrontation brings Nicole closer to the sinister menace, testing her spirit and will, causing her to engage head-on with her past.     

 

This is the graphic novel I wish I had while growing up in 1980s Manila. Every family had excellent storytellers who relayed the terror that lurks in dense forests and lonely alleyways. We had serial “komiks” written and illustrated by Filipino creators. However, few “komiks” series and short stories focused on our people’s vibrant and expansive pantheon of magical, mystical, and scary creatures. At that time, there was more interest in creating the Filipino equivalent of American superheroes.  

 

In my journey of decolonization, contemporary literary pieces like “The Mythology Class” help to solidify pride in one’s identity and heritage. Arre succeeds in bringing to life indigenous Philippine folklore in contemporary settings. It was delightful and gratifying to read the international release. The long-form graphic novel is an excellent vehicle for relaying a complex and action-filled story. Knowing that my people’s mythology was finally being seen and understood by a broader audience. This book introduces Philippine belief systems and interpersonal values for readers unfamiliar with Philippine folk stories. Readers understand Filipino mythology through Arre’s narrative and experience Filipino culture through the values Nicole and her friends displayed: loyalty, respect for elders, and mutual cooperation. 

 

“The Mythology Class” offers a much-needed respite from the ordinariness of life in America, often devoid of ancient magic and mystery. Beyond escapism, stories of dangerous adventures and death-defying quests are electrifying because everybody benefits from a touch of nostalgia and fearless spirit as inspiration. The excitement of going on purposeful adventures with trusted friends is even more important for a middle-aged GenXer mentally weighed down by the stresses of everyday adulting.  

 

 

*****

 

Maileen Hamto grew up in Sampaloc, Manila, in the 1980s. While she relished her loud and busy extended family with younger cousins, uncles, and aunts, she also appreciated quiet time reading poetry books in English and komiks that featured her father’s stories and illustrations. Her father, Angelito Hamto, was among the handful of komiks writers who apprenticed for the late great Mars Ravelo. Maileen’s “Papa” wrote fantasy and horror short stories and serials in various komiks produced by Ace and Atlas Publishing from the late 1970s until 1991, when the Hamto family relocated to the United States.

 

Maileen has fond memories of reading komiks scripts stacked beside her Papa’s manual typewriter. A cherished childhood memory was having hot cocoa and pan de sal with liver spread with the family as a midnight snack and listening to her parents discuss story ideas and plots, always laden with a tragic twist. 



          

 

WAKING UP TO THE PATTERN LEFT BY A SNAIL OVERNIGHT by JIM PASCUAL AGUSTIN

 EILEEN TABIOS Engages


Waking Up to the Pattern Left by a Snail Overnight by Jim Pascual Agustin

(Gaudy Boy LLC / Singapore Unbound, New York, 2023)


BOOK LINK

 

I’ve read poems by Jim Pascual Agustin in the past. If the poems in his new book, Waking Up to the Pattern Left by a Snail Overnight, represent his newest or newer work, then I’m glad since they’re among the best poems I’ve read by him. The poet improves as he continues writing—it’s lovely to see that for Agustin since it’s lovely to see such about any poet.

 

Among my favorites is the title poem “Waking Up to the Pattern Left by a Snail Overnight.” (I did wonder why the title of both poem and book is not, instead, "Waking Up to the Pattern Left Overnight by a Snail." But, moving on...)  The poem is not only strong (deceptively powerful in its minimalism) but it grounds the entire collection through the quotidian: “Troubled as a dream / without an end. / It is all water / and glass, this world / bound by wood, / not knowing it / was a window.” (I’d have preferred this short poem to be the first versus second poem but no need to burrow in corkscrew thinking to second-guess the order of poems. I mention my preference only to support the strength of this poem.)

 

The book's tone of calmness falls like a cashmere shawl about you as you sit reading this book of poems. That calmness makes more emphatic the occasional shard your eyes suddenly stumble across, like this excerpt that made my fingers itch with empathy to make that twist:

 

Turn the tap. Add a smile, pretend

you’re twisting the ear of the school bully

—from “The Struggle of Water”

 

Or this shard of an ending to the prose poem “Leaving the Infinite Library”:

 

…Then the librarian appeared on the panel

before her.

“Infinity is but a moment here. You know that once you read that book

there is no turning back, my child?”

She nodded. She could already recall the first scent of blood that

Came rushing out of her: warmth, surprise, fear.

 

Sometimes, the shard doesn’t recede and becomes the entire poem, as for "The Name of the Land Is One” which begins bluntly in a welcome way as

 

The name of the land is one 

of many claims

 

There is also a welcome oddness to several poems that elevate them. Take “Injuring the Night.” I’m not sure the second stanza “works,” but I don’t care since such assessments are subjective and may work for someone else. The first and third work for me and the all of it resonates memorably. I have a soft spot for night poems and I welcome this one:

 

Injuring the Night

 

Injuring the night’s skin, boots

Dark with someone else’s blood.

 

Shattering the night’s skull, porcelain

Cups the shape of babies’ mouths.

 

Twisting the night’s spine, dawn

Throwing ropes of light.


Last but not least, I welcome the multiplicity of references raised within the book—they bespeak a wide-ranging attention span that’s one of this poet’s assets. For this collection, the presence of diverse elements include Taylor Swift, Bj√∂rk, Maria Ressa, Mad Max, Japanese anime, and the Marcos dictatorship. May Agustin continue to be energetically curious and intellectually open as his poetry will benefit as well as his readers. But we need not look to the future to express gratitude for a satisfying reading experience. Congratulations to Jim Pascual Agustin for this book of poetry.

 

 

*****

 


Eileen R. Tabios has released over 70 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers around the world. In 2023, she releases the poetry collection Because I Love You, I Become War; an autobiography, The Inventor; and a flash fiction collection collaboration with harry k stammer, Getting To One.  Other recent books include a first novel DoveLion: A Fairy Tale for Our Times; two French books, PRISES (Double Take) (trans. Fanny Garin) and La Vie erotique de l’art (trans. Samuel Rochery); and a book-length essay Kapwa’s Novels. 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; and the “Flooid” poetry form that’s rooted in a good deed. Translated into 12 languages, she also has edited, co-edited or conceptualized 15 anthologies of poetry, fiction and essays. More information is at http://eileenrtabios.com 

 


 

FILIPINX: HERITAGE RECIPES FROM THE DIASPORA by ANGELA DIMAYUGA and LIGAYA MISHAN

 MAILEEN HAMTO Reviews


Filipinx: Heritage Recipes from the Diaspora by Angela Dimayuga and Ligaya Mishan

(Abrams, 2021)

 

BOOK LINK

 

Food traditions symbolize family history and represent cultural pride. For Filipinx from different generations in the worldwide diaspora, the cuisines enjoyed by our ancestors and immediate relatives are what brings us close together as a community. Filipino/x cuisine is a reflection of the archipelago’s rich history of trade with neighboring countries, as well as Western colonization. Varied influences from Spanish and American colonial history and contemporary streams of migration have transformed the Filipino/x palate. In an elegantly written and illustrated book, Angela Dimayuga and Ligaya Mishan collaborated to bring beloved and soul-satisfying Filipino/x recipes to more than 4 million Filipino-Americans.

 

I read the book from the point of view of an immigrant who has lived in the U.S. for more than 30 years. I was born and raised in Manila, reared on home-cooked meals by my Lola, Mom, uncles, and aunties whose culinary grounding was in the Tagalog region. I was delighted to see beloved traditional recipes for classic dishes like kare-kare, pancit palabok and embutido. I was intrigued by dishes that are not so familiar to my Tagalog palate, like homemade spam and pastel de lengua. Some featured recipes have an obvious American influence, such as fried chicken, fried pork chops, and hotdogs in Filipino spaghetti. Like anything that arises from the admixture of cultures, what is embraced as Filipino/x cuisine bears the remnants of the old, blended with the new. At times, the innovation comes with a dash of vinegar here, a dollop of bagoong there. Main and side dishes, accompanying sauces, and condiments come alive with new ingredients and ways of preparation.       

 

This book belongs in every FilAm’s library and everyone who appreciates Filipino/x culture and cuisine. Readers may appreciate the glimpses of FilAm life in these United States, the resilience and persistence of a minoritized people to carry on and make adobo. In harnessing the culinary gifts of their ancestors from across a vast ocean, the authors chose the path of least resistance in fulfilling their life’s purpose. What sets the book apart is the rich storytelling that comes with each heritage recipe, where Dimayuga and Mishan share personal experiences and reflections. Memories of family icons and gatherings accompanied by historical photos may cause readers to long for the comfort and closeness of large family get-togethers that make great food more enjoyable. Love poured into the kawali makes heart- and soul-filling dishes for those who crave tastes from a distant past.  

 

 

*****

 

Maileen Hamto grew up in Sampaloc, Manila. She moved with her family to Houston, Texas, in the 1990s. Her decade-long stint in Houston exposed her to diverse palates, including Southern American, Cajun, TexMex, and foods from the rich Asian American diaspora in one of the most diverse cities in the United States. As a resident of Colorado, she is delighted by the growing presence of entrepreneurial Filipinas who are making homemade food and selling them through “Tindahang Filipino in Colorado,” a Facebook group that connects FilAms, Filipinxs, and Pinays in the Rockies. Maileen prefers to roll her own meaty lumpiang shanghai and add curry powder to oxtail kare-kare.      

 

 

 

TRESE VOL. 1: MURDER ON BALATE DRIVE by BUDGETTE TAN and KAJO BALDISIMO

ERIC SMITH Reviews


Trese vol. 1:  Murder on Balete Drive (Issues 1-4) by Budgette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo

(Ablaze, 2020) 

BOOK LINK


During the day, the streets of Metro Manila are packed with the hustle and bustle that is the city’s heartbeat. But when the sun goes down, and the roads go dark, a different kind of life emerges from the shadows. A more sinister scene takes over, and the city’s sounds are now the things that go bump in the night. When the police need help to stop street racing Tikbalang or kidnapping Aswang, there is only one person they can call. Her name is Alexandra Trese.

 

Trese Vol. 1: Murder on Balete Drive are the first four issues of the Trese comics. Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo teamed up to bring the stories and myths of the Philippines to a new generation of comic book readers and a wider global audience. Growing up with ghost stories and threats of Aswang if he didn’t behave, Tan draws on his childhood for inspiration in the creation of Trese. Saying Tan’s stories are dark would be an understatement. With the art of KaJo, this work can best be described as grimdark. Working only in black and white, illustrating the monsters found at night gives this graphic novel a “grim and gritty” feel.

 

As a reader interested in dark supernatural stories and characters, I was introduced to Trese through the Netflix series. This brought me to learn about the rich history of the Filipino comic scene. The team of Tan and KaJo started with their self-published comic books in 1994. Now, Ablaze Publishing has released this noir crime fiction in the form of graphic novels. For anyone interested in urban lore, specifically Filipino mythology with a twist, Trese Vol. 1: Murder on Balete Drive is a fun book in the darkest sense.

 

 

*****

 

As a lifelong nerd, Eric Smith enjoyed learning and reading. His interests ranged from nature to science fiction and fantasy to comic books. Learning about mythology and folklore became a gateway into other cultures. His Filipino wife shares his fascination with the written word. She has expanded his knowledge of the Philippines' myths and legends and the nature of the region. 

During the lockdowns of 2020, Eric found sanctuary in the pages of books. When the opportunity to review books came up, he jumped on the chance. Eric has sought out novels, anthologies, and graphic novels that intrigued him. He has been able to review works by authors and artists he enjoys reading and has become familiar with new writers. Previous reviews have appeared in Seattle Book Review, Portland Book Review, and Manhattan Book Review.

 

THE MOUNTAIN THAT GREW by ALFRED A. YUSON

EILEEN TABIOS Engages


BOOK LINK

The Mountain That Grew by Alfred A. Yuson with art/design by Marcel Antonio and Ilana Antonio (San Anselmo Publications, Philippines, 2022)

Alfred A. Yuson’s The Mountain That Grew is about a mountain that keeps growing and a man who wants to stop its growth. It’s presented as a children’s book, but I read it as a sly allegory: the search for paradise can be a path that damages its pilgrims. Just look at the history of many religions. 

Krip Yuson’s story offers a solution to how the mountain’s growth may not be beneficial to everyone; he suggests that all people dream the same dream. Call it a call to community or unity. Perhaps that’s how countries are born  and mature, in which case it’s relevant that the setting is in the Philippines: Manao. However—and as indeed illustrated by Philippine history—it’s almost impossible for everyone to share the same dream. Just look at the gap between rich and poor in the Philippines (and elsewhere). If any of you reaches paradise, look around and see how many Filipino leaders will be enjoying mango smoothies with you instead of seeing them only when you look down to where they're turning on a spit over hellfire.

The book is also interesting for evoking a discussion I once read on children's books, specifically how some parents were turning away from such books because they wanted to expose their children to more sophisticated vocabulary than what they were seeing in children's books. For this, Yuson's story should not be of concern. While written straightforwardly and clearly, the story contains sufficient "aspirational" vocabulary so that a young child might learn new words as a result of the talefor examples, the words "perplexed," "lure" (as a verb), "toiled," "startled," "convinced," and "marvel" (as a noun). These words could have been replaced with simpler versions, but Yuson trusted in the context of the children's book, i.e. that the story would be read to a child with the help of an adult who can answer questions. (I am fond of stories that evince "trust" in the reader.)

It’s worth noting that while I appreciate the accompanying visual art by Marcel Antonio and Ilana Antonio, the art can hardly be described as cheery. The tone is consistently somber, which would fit my read of the text. It's categorized as children’s literature but it should be widely distributed among Filipinos of all ages—its subversive role in focusing readers on the frailty of the Philippines as a (unified) country makes this tale not just for children but for adults. 

As well, I keep considering its format—relatively short text with illustrations and the same size as traditional comics. Would this be a way to attract general and not just children's readership? To be ill-educated is not the same as not being smart. I think many can get the subtext of this book whether or not reading is part of their consistent habits. There are implications here regarding literary marketing. It helps that Yuson gives a model for a deeply-considered story and lessons masked in the guise of an accessible book. 

The author, a poet, concludes the story with an open-ended conclusion—a poetic ending. Its avoidance of a fixed end evokes the instability of what next will happen in the Philippines. One can only hope that corrupt politicians don’t become so greedy that the people give up dreaming.

On a personal note, I recently wrote a children's story for the first time. I do believe that Yuson's work in this genre encouraged me to this turn. That's one of the highest compliment a writer can give another writer, that is, that a piece of writing inspires the writer-reader to write anew.  Kudos, Krip! And Thank You.


*****


Eileen R. Tabios has released over 70 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers around the world. In 2023, she releases the poetry collection Because I Love You, I Become War; an autobiography, The Inventor; and a flash fiction collection collaboration with harry k stammer, Getting To One.  Other recent books include a first novel DoveLion: A Fairy Tale for Our Times; two French books, PRISES (Double Take) (trans. Fanny Garin) and La Vie erotique de l’art (trans. Samuel Rochery); and a book-length essay Kapwa’s Novels. 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; and the “Flooid” poetry form that’s rooted in a good deed. Translated into 12 languages, she also has edited, co-edited or conceptualized 15 anthologies of poetry, fiction and essays. More information is at http://eileenrtabios.com 


BOY WANDER by JOBERT E. ABUEVA

 MAILEEN HAMTO Reviews

 

Boy Wander: A Coming of Age Memoir by Jobert E. Abueva

(Rattling Good Yarns Press, LLC, 2023)

 

BOOK LINK 

 

Boy Wander is Jobert Abueva’s heartrending, evocative memoir relaying pivotal moments in his childhood as he awakens into the joys and tribulations of adolescence. His is a coming-of-age story like no other. His story begins on the eve of Martial Law under the Marcos dictatorship, where his father, a prominent political science professor, is suspected of disloyalty to the regime. The increasing threat to the family’s safety led the elder Abueva to seek visiting professorships in the United States, Nepal, Thailand and Japan. Thus, the author and his siblings spent the majority of their childhoods as “third-culture kids,” young people who are raised in a culture outside of their parents’ “passport country.” Abueva eagerly immersed in various experiences in new, albeit temporary, homes. Blossoming into sexual awareness, he realizes his attraction to boys. Adventures into self-discovery teach tough lessons about the pitfalls of desire, the importance of self-preservation, and the gift of gracious friendships.          

 

I read the book from my vantage point as a straight, cisgender Filipina-American woman. I spent my formative years in Manila during the Marcos regime and understand the weight of exile imposed upon those incriminated with plotting against the dictatorship. For readers who are not as familiar with Philippine cultural contexts, Abueva offers a crash course in history and politics, anchored in the tumultuous era. What was most poignant for me was Abueva’s courageous and thought-provoking narrative about growing up gay in the late 1970s, as a Filipino transplant attending a Catholic school in Tokyo. Boy Wander shares the lessons of shame, guilt, and reckoning with one’s true identity. His escapades involved a perilous double life as a straight-A student government leader and an underaged “call boy.” During that time, there was much stigma and secrecy around being gay, leading Abueva to engage in covert, risky, and dangerous behavior.

 

Overcoming years of concealment and condemnation, Abueva pridefully shares his story in Boy Wander. It underscores the importance of standing up for and protecting the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community at all costs. Abueva’s story reminds us that we must continue to advocate for inclusivity so that gay and trans children no longer have to suffer under the weight of societal pressure to conform to heteronormativity. The community has fought hard for recognition and respect, and threats to marriage equality and attacks on the humanity of transgender people endanger the progress achieved over the last few decades.    

 


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Maileen Hamto grew up in Sampaloc, Manila, and now resides in Denver and San Luis Valley, Colorado. She continues to humbly learn from friends and colleagues from the LGBTQIA+ community who generously share the wisdom of their lived experiences. While there is room for LGBTQIA+ identity in Philippine society, many hurdles remain (also here). With the prospect of becoming a dual citizen, Maileen looks forward to being able to vote for Philippine legislation and candidates that prioritize the inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ community. Stateside, Maileen supplements her learning about the LGBTQIA+ community by keeping up-to-date on actions championed by prominent organizations such as the Human Rights CampaignNBJC,  PFLAGThe Trevor Project, and others.