All Things Asian Event Post: 04.16.2012 – Filipino Literature

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

All Things Asian: April 2-16

Zara’s All Things Asian Event Post:

Filipino Literature

The blogs: That Hapa Chick; Live, Laugh, I Love Books; and My Words Ate Me are hosting the All Things Asian Event featuring guest posts about anything and everything about the Asian culture!

My guest post blogging interview has been featured on Julia’s blog: ThatHapaChick  on April 13! Please visit ThatHapaChick to read my interview!

Each and every day, a guest post will be featured until April 16, 2012, so be sure to drop by and visit the hosting blogs! Just click on the All Things Asian button above that links to the host blog.


As for me, I couldn’t pass up the chance to post a few articles as part of the All Things Asian Event on my own blog, alongside this important event because quite simply put: I’m Asian! And I’m especially honoured and driven to share the beauty of Asia with my readers to foster awareness, community, and inclusivity—all things that are especially important to me.


Though I love great literary fiction in of itself, I’ve noticed my book-buying and book-borrowing trends show that I tend to gravitate a lot more to books with cultural themes. Of those cultural themes, I most enjoy stories about China, Japan, and India, which seem to be the places and the cultures, which intrigue me the most.

Unfortunately, in comparison to Asian books published in North America, there doesn’t seem to be a large amount of books of fiction published about the Philippines especially in Canada. They do, however, exist.

Here are a few novels of fiction about the Pilipinas:


Dream Jungle

Author: Jessica Hagedorn

Published by Viking (imprint of Penguin Books), 2003

Page Count: 325 pages

ISBN: 0-670-88458-8

DREAM JUNGLE by Jessica Hagedorn

From the book jacket:

Two seemingly unrelated events occur in the Philippines—the discovery of the Taobo, an ancient lost tribe living in a remote mountainous area, and the arrival of an American, celebrity-studded film-crew, there to make an epic Vietnam War movie. But the “lost tribe” just might be a clever hoax masterminded by a brooding wealthy iconoclast—and the Hollywood movies seems doomed as the cast and crew continue to self-destruct in a cloud of drugs and their own egos.

To read more about Jessica Hagedorn, click on the photo below to link to her official website.

Jessica Hagedorn, author of DREAM JUNGLE


When the Elephants Dance

Author: Tess Uriza Holthe

Published by Crown Publishers, 2002

Page Count: 367 pages

ISBN: 0-609-60952-1


From the book jacket:

Through the eyes of three narrators, thirteen-year-old Alejandro Karangalan, his spirited older sister Isabelle, and Domingo, a passionate guerrilla commander, we see how ordinary people must learn to live in the midst of extraordinary uncertainty, how they must find hope for survival where none seems to exist. They find this hope in the dramatic history of the Philippine Islands and the passion and bravery of its people.

Crowded together in the cellar, the Karangalans and their friends and neighbours tell magical stories to one another based on Filipino myth and legend to fuel their courage, pass the time, and teach important lessons. The group is held spellbound by these stories, which feature a dazzling array of ghosts, witches, supernatural creatures, and courageous Filipinos who changed the course of history with their actions. These profoundly moving stories transport the listeners from the chaos of the war [World War II] around them and give them new resolve to fight on.

To read more about Tess Uriza Holthe, click on the photo below to link to her official website.

Tess Uriza Holthe, author of WHEN THE ELEPHANTS DANCE


The Umbrella Country

Author: Bino A. Realuyo

Published by Random House, 1999

Page count: 320 pages

ISBN: 978-0345428882


Book description from Amazon:

On the tumultuous streets of Manila, where the earth is as brown as a tamarind leaf and the pungent smells of vinegar and mashed peppers fill the air, where seasons shift between scorching sun and torrential rain, eleven-year-old Gringo strives to make sense of his family and a world that is growing increasingly harsher before his young eyes.

There is Gringo’s older brother, Pipo, wise beyond his years, a flamboyant, defiant youth and the three-time winner of the sequined Miss Unibers contest; Daddy Groovie, whiling away his days with other hang-about men, out of work and wilting like a guava, clinging to the hope of someday joining his sister in Nuyork; Gringo’s mother, Estrella, moving through their ramshackle home, holding her emotions tight as a fist, which she often clenches in anger after curfew covers the neighborhood in a burst of dark; and Ninang Rola, wise godmother of words, who confides in Gringo a shocking secret from the past–and sets the stage for the profound events to come, in which no one will remain untouched by the jagged pieces of a shattered dream.

As Gringo learns; shame is passed down through generations, but so is the life-changing power of blood ties and enduring love.


To read more about Bino A. Realuyo, click on the photo below to link to his official website.

Bino A. Realuyo, author of THE UMBRELLA COUNTRY



Author: Miguel Syjuco

Published by Hamish Hamilton Canada, 2011

Page count: 324 pages

ISBN: 978-0670063956




ILLUSTRADO by Miguel Syjuco

From Chapters-Indigo webpage:

Miguel Syjuco’s debut novel, Ilustrado, opens with Crispin Salvador, lion of Philippine letters, dead in the Hudson River. His young student, Miguel, sets out to investigate the author’s fatal departure from his encroaching obscurity and the suspicious disappearance of an unfinished manuscript—a work that had been planned to not just return the once—great author to fame, but to expose the corruption behind rich families who have ruled the Philippines for generations.

To understand the death, Miguel scours the life, charting Salvador’s trajectory via his poetry, stories, interviews, novels, polemics, and memoirs. The literary fragments become patterns become stories become epic: a family saga of four generations tracing 150 years of a country’s history forged under the Spanish, Americans, and Filipinos themselves. In the end, the story twists, belonging to young Miguel as much as his lost mentor, and readers are treated to an unhindered view of a tropical Third World society caught between reckless decay and hopeful progress. In this astonishingly inventive and bold novel, Syjuco explores fatherhood, regret, revolution, and the mysteries of lives lived and abandoned.

To read more about Miguel Syjuco, click on the photo below.

Miguel Syjuco, author of ILLUSTRADO, winner of The Man Asian Literary Prize.


I am exceptionally proud of my fellow Filipino writers and loudly applaud their publishing success. A special congratulations to Miguel Syjuco for winning the Man Asian Literary Prize for his novel Illustrado!


Have you ever read a book about the cultural themes of the Philippines?

How do you think books about the Filipino experience differ from other Asian-themed fiction?


Thanks for joining me at The Bibliotaphe’s Closet in feature posts about the Philippines during the All Things Asian Event! 

It was a re-learning process for me and a kind reminder of the beauty of my heritage. I was glad to be able share a little bit about the Philippines with those who may or may not be keenly familiar with it and am proud to be part of a distinct cultural history, community, and people.

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!


Zara Alexis


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