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, 2023 for Issue #16. Duplications of authors/artists and more than one testimonial are fine.
Mangozine's Issue #15 Presents
Eileen Tabios on Monica Macansantos
Leny Strobel on Patrick Rosal
Eileen Tabios on Patricia Manuel Go
Eileen Tabios on Ina Cariño
Ina Cariño's FEAST (Alice James Books, 2023) is a first book and contains not just achievements but much promise. The book drips as if its pages are stuffed with melted mantika, which is to say, what's not to love about melted butter since the drips to which I refer are lines wonderful enough to serve as epigraphs. Like,
“archipelago is just another word / for slaughtered”
—from “Yesterday’s Traumas, Today’s Salt”
”wounds pretending to be badges from war”
“slice through the fattest layer in your gut & eat”
—from “Lean Economy”
As one can see by the above lines, FEAST does not exclude the bitter, and it's a stronger collection for it. I relished several moments, such as this beginning to "Piyesta":
“surrendering to a new tongue
is having mine sliced
on the jag of expectation”
Yes, FEAST encourages seconds for reading again through its pages. Cariño makes poison even delicious to read—their (or a) version of poetry's beautiful paradox.
Eileen Tabios on Hari Alluri
You know that thing many readers of poetry books do, which is to open the book at random to read individual poems? I rarely do that for the first read because I am also interested in the construction of the poetry book—how it’s ordered, how it’s sectioned, how its beginning poem might relate to its last poem, how flabby it’s middle section may or may not be, and so on. While Hari Alluri’s The Flayed City (Kaya Press, 2017) excels on such construction issues, it also shows why so many readers read individual poems at random. All the pages, the poems, are individually worthwhile reading even if they were not comprising a book. One can test my opinion by me opening the book at random and sharing poems. Here’s one example:
This war recast
her city’s lines—the threads
she bound her broom with.
Until I read Hari Alluri, I’d never before combined the words/concepts of “gritty” and “luminous"—a stellar achievement.
Elizabeth Ann Quirino on Claude Tayag, Michaela Fenix, and Ige Ramos
“The only correct way to cook adobo is the one you grew up with.”- Chef Claude Tayag.
In this 200-page, full color, 9 x 9-inch coffee-table book entitled The Ultimate Filipino Adobo: Stories through the Ages by Claude Tayag, with Michaela Fenix and Ige Ramos, one finds the answer to the age old question of “who cooks the best adobo.”
This compendium of adobo essays by culinary experts was published in 2022 by The Foreign Language Institute (Manila). Told through family stories, and via historical origins, one discovers there is no one way, and there is no standard, strict rule to cook the Philippines’ unofficial national dish.
This thick, rich book of adobo anecdotes affirms what the reader feels: the joys, the exhilaration, the ultimate feeling of satisfaction that never ends when one tastes the flavors of that savory, tart, vinegary, and garlicky dish right next to a bowl of steamed rice. As to which is the best adobo? The authors suggest it’s the one in your kitchen, in the heart of your home.
“It’s the feel-good memory of home no matter where their paths may have taken them, that makes the Filipino adobo truly a treasured dish.” – from The Ultimate Filipino Adobo Book.
Leny Strobel on Gilda Cordero-Fernando
This is a very belated love note to Gilda Cordero-Fernando because her Jamming on an Old Saya (Anvil, 1995) is one of a few coffee-table books that I've kept. Somehow this book reminds me of the current flowering of interest in all things Filipino indigenous as well as cultural practices in the diaspora—in fashion, film, literature, and food. Jamming on an Old Saya reminds me that what is "old/antique" can be made new again and speak to a new generation. An old saya, panuelo, or tapis languishing in old trunks can become refashioned into something new again. GCF was that kind of visionary. She was known as the one who opens the door, a pacesetter.
I wish others can see the beauty of this book! But it is out of print. It should be reprinted!
Eric Smith on Paolo Chikiamco and Mervin Malonzo
The Philippines is an archipelago nation of more than 7000 islands and almost 200 ethnolinguistic communities. The diversity of indigenous cultures has led to a vast pantheon of gods, goddesses, and other deities, heroes, monsters, and creatures. The number of myths and legends from the Philippines is unfathomable. Throughout the centuries, the stories have transformed and developed. Many stories still continue to change with the times.
Alternative Alamat: An Anthology (Tuttle Publishing, 2022) is curated and edited by Paolo Chikiamco. In its third edition, it’s the first publication in English. Alamat is the Filipino word for legend, making this book a collection of new stories of Filipino mythology. As a non-Filipino reviewer, I was drawn to this book because of my interest in the non-western folklore. These unique renditions, sometimes keeping up with the modern age, do not disappoint. The legends come from thirteen different Filipino authors. Some are known to western audiences, like Budjette Tan, the creator of the Trese series. In addition to the tales, this book offers expert interviews, a glossary of notable deities, and even a comic strip. For readers who know the stories, this book provides a fresh new look at some old characters. For readers seeing these tales for the first time, it’s a great launch pad into the unique and fascinating realm of Filipino folklore.
Eileen Tabios on Monica Macansantos
LOVE AND OTHER RITUALS (grattan street press, Australia, 2022) is Monica Macansantos' first (I believe it’s her first?) short story collection, is aptly titled since I consider the title story “Love and Other Rituals” to be a standout in this particular company. Not that there’s anything wrong with the other stories. Ultimately, I got a sense as I read through the book of coming across a writer who’s early on in what looks to be a promising literary career. Her promise was emphasized by a particular sentence that made me linger in contemplation—here's the sentence:
“There was nothing left to do but stand at a distance; that desire to rework things in the mind, he realized, was a waste of time.”
Sometimes, you—or I—read certain books and a single sentence can make entire books worthwhile. I’d place the above sentence in that category. This sentence made me pause, not just to admire it. In such a sentence, I see the potential for a novel, more than one novel, as the writer shows she possesses the powers of observation, (self-)awareness, meditation, and analysis that are necessary atop good writing skills to make a great novelist. I do consider her potential scale to be larger than the short story—in a way, I feel like some short stories were longing for longer forms.
It's possible I gleaned that longing too subjectively as a response to the pacing of the book’s stories. These stories require intent attention from readers if they want to appreciate them, i.e. they don’t work for quick or flip-reads. In fact, because of pacing, at one point I was reminded of Wong Kar-wai’s 2000 drama In the Mood for Love praised for its lush, gorgeous scenes and subtle, evocative storytelling. May she hone her skill for the evocative in the years ahead of her writing.
For now, and as I return to re-read the story “Leaving Auckland” that I feel warrants more than one reading to fully appreciate, I recommend Monica’s book, a validation of the short story form.
Leny Strobel on Patrick Rosal
When I came across Patrick Rosal’s ATANG: An Altar for Listening to the Beginning of the World (Quili-Quili Press, 2021), a flash of recognition engulfed me. This “self-published book improvisation” by Quili-Quili Power Press makes me laugh. Dear reader, you do know that word, right? It’s one of the first words we teach our kids when we want them to pick up a Pilipino word for their body parts. Your kili-kili stinks!! We kiss the baby’s kili-kili and we gigil!!
“500 years of making shit up as we go along” — Patrick Rosal. In ATANG, Patrick makes up all the shit that isn’t shit and plays with historical events triggering memories, ghosts and haunting, ancestral imprints, diasporic stories — and everything comes alive for me. YES! I shout silently. This is what I miss! This is what I’ve always wanted to see emerge: the blurring of genres, boundaries and maps…and still what I get in the end is the clarity of transfiguration. A Love beyond the page. A Joy beyond language. Kapwa.
But how can your father be a priest, Patrick? Priests are supposed to be celibate. I’m glad he fell in love with your mother. Maybe St Augustine or Francis Aquinas did their bidding on his lonely heart. That is Blessedness because you are here now. Another peal of silent laughter as I read about your convoluted family history. The fatherpriest you didn’t want to be and so you didn’t become one. Yes, all of our family histories are convoluted. How can they not be? Everything is convoluted from the beginning. Here you are now fathering from quili-quili power! Bringing many children into the fold and gold of your mythic imagination.
As you are much younger than I am, I couldn’t relate much to the pop culture you grew up in: turntables and djing and punk and hip hop — and yet I feel the pulse of these energies. They are shamanic. They are ontological and chthonic as they say in academic jargon. Of the underworld. Subversive. Emergent. Our people are good at these kinds of shit even when they think it’s because of their devotion to the Sto Nino.
I like the parts of ATANG where you write about your struggle with tinnitus, the uninvited sounds of crickets 24/7 drowning out conversations; the mixtape they create in our heads. For you, it is a reminder of what our navigator ancestors must have learned from listening to the waves of the ocean. Sound as Teacher. You make me believe that we still have those skills or can regenerate these skills if we know the power they carry. If we get to know our bodies.
Perhaps this is why you have included Language lessons in Ilokano in ATANG. I am not Ilokano so picking up new words in Ilokano makes me feel connected to what the words carry: Rebbeng, Dungaw, Manganup, Mangisuro. I can hear the affinity of Austronesian languages. Marian Pastor Roces, museum curator and art and cultural critic, urges us to always think beyond the 500 years of colonial history and get to know our five thousand year old Austronesian history and cultures. You are doing this here and Ilokano works its magic.
NVM Gonzalez, our national artist for literature, once told me: “Leny, for what you want to do, there is no language; learn how to sing, dance, paint instead.” Your drawings and collages remind me of this, Patrick. Because English is a borrowed tongue and hardly adequate to translate our sensibilities, we draw and make art. Thank you for keeping records this way.
Eileen Tabios on Patricia Manuel Go
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