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ONTD Reading Challenge Around the World: December / Philippines



Hey guys! We're in the final month of our Reading Challenge! And we're heading to the Philippines! The post this month has been written by ONTDer lawofcosines, who shared quick facts about the country and some great book recs <3


- Formally called the Republic of the Philippines, the country is an archipelago sharing maritime boundaries with Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Palau, Japan, China, and Vietnam. It is part of Maritime Southeast Asia, and is the second-largest in population and sixth-largest in area. The country is twelfth-largest in population worldwide.

- Manila is the most densely populated city proper in the world, and second only to Tokyo when it comes to cities directly affected by natural disasters. Due to its location in the Western Pacific and the Ring of Fire, it is a disaster-prone country with frequent earthquakes and typhoons.

- The country boasts beautiful beaches, mountains, and tropical rainforests. The first humans in the country lived 50,000 to 67,000 years ago. The first Austronesians arrived in 2200 BC, and as such, the people of the Philippines are from Austronesian descent.

- Because of Magellan and subsequent expeditions, the Philippines was colonized by the Spanish and ruled directly from Mexico until 1821. The Manila-Acapulco galleon trade served as an overseas route of Asian culture to North America, bringing Chinese, Japanese, Malay, and Filipino culture and people.

- Because of geography, Indian and Chinese culture reached the country through trade with mainland and archipelagic states such as Tang dynasty, Majapahit empire, and Brunei. Islam was dominant in the larger states of Sulu, Maguindanao, Tondo, and Manila.

- This geography also makes unity a problem. The Muslim peoples of Sulu and Maguindanao, alongside the indigenous people in inland Mindanao, were never really under Spanish direct administration. Indigenous peoples of the mountains in Luzon and Visayas also rejected direct administration. It was only under the rule of the Americans that they were conquered and organized as provinces. The Americans also introduced manifest destiny in the Philippines by encouraging Catholics from Luzon and Visayas to settle in newly-conquered Mindanao. The dispossession and neglect of indigenous Mindanaoans (Muslim and not) is one of the roots of conflict that continues today.

- Modern Philippine history is shaped from the era of American colonization. American-style liberal democracy persists today. Economically, the country remains a neocolonial economy shaped around resource extraction and labor force export. Sponsored and supported by America, the Philippines went under the fascist dictatorship of the Marcoses. Millions of workers and indigenous peoples were killed for the benefit of foreign and local businesses. The Marcoses were deposed after a series of small revolts that culminated in the EDSA Revolution of 1986.

- Similar to Argentina, the Philippines also have its own desaparecidos who are kidnapped, tortured, and killed by military and police forces. Despite the "restoration of democracy" in 1986, the Philippine government never ended their practice of military and police violence. Subsequent presidents after 1986 have faced scandals of disappearances and murders of students, activists, and workers who oppose the exploitation of the country. The military officers, soldiers, cronies, and bureaucracy that enabled the Marcoses were never liquidated and tried in court. They were kept in power despite the change in presidency.

- Philippine history continues to be shaped by the Marcos dictatorship era until today, its horrors known through popular literature and media. Despite that, the current Duterte regime is a fascist dictatorship headed by Marcos cronies and loyalists who partake in historical revisionism of the Marcos era.



Gina Apostol - Insurrecto

Two women, a Filipino translator and an American filmmaker, go on a road trip in Duterte’s Philippines, collaborating and clashing in the writing of a film script about a massacre during the Philippine-American War. Chiara is working on a film about an incident in Balangiga, Samar, in 1901, when Filipino revolutionaries attacked an American garrison, and in retaliation American soldiers created “a howling wilderness” of the surrounding countryside. Magsalin reads Chiara’s film script and writes her own version. Insurrecto contains within its dramatic action two rival scripts from the filmmaker and the translator—one about a white photographer, the other about a Filipino schoolteacher.

Within the spiraling voices and narrative layers of Insurrecto are stories of women—artists, lovers, revolutionaries, daughters—finding their way to their own truths and histories. Using interlocking voices and a kaleidoscopic structure, the novel is startlingly innovative, meditative, and playful. Insurrecto masterfully questions and twists narrative in the manner of Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch, and Nabokov’s Pale Fire. Apostol pushes up against the limits of fiction in order to recover the atrocity in Balangiga, and in so doing, she shows us the dark heart of an untold and forgotten war that would shape the next century of Philippine and American history.

Carlos Bulosan - America Is in the Heart

America is in the Heart is a semi-autobiographical novel from the celebrated author, Carlos Bulosan. Beginning with the young Carlos's difficult childhood in rural Philippines where he and his family face immense hardship, this gripping story follows the narrator's tumultuous journey in search of a better life in America. This is an eye-opening account of the injustices, abuse and discrimination faced by immigrants in post-WWII America.




José Rizal - Noli Me Tangere

In more than a century since its appearance, José Rizal's Noli Me Tangere has become widely known as the great novel of the Philippines. A passionate love story set against the ugly political backdrop of repression, torture, and murder, "The Noli," as it is called in the Philippines, was the first major artistic manifestation of Asian resistance to European colonialism, and Rizal became a guiding conscience—and martyr—for the revolution that would subsequently rise up in the Spanish province.



Mia Alvar - In the Country

These nine globe-trotting, unforgettable stories from Mia Alvar, a remarkable new literary talent, vividly give voice to the women and men of the Filipino diaspora. Here are exiles, emigrants, and wanderers uprooting their families from the Philippines to begin new lives in the Middle East, the United States, and elsewhere—and, sometimes, turning back again.

A pharmacist living in New York smuggles drugs to his ailing father in Manila, only to discover alarming truths about his family and his past. In Bahrain, a Filipina teacher drawn to a special pupil finds, to her surprise, that she is questioning her own marriage. A college student leans on her brother, a laborer in Saudi Arabia, to support her writing ambitions, without realizing that his is the life truly made for fiction. And in the title story, a journalist and a nurse face an unspeakable trauma amidst the political turmoil of the Philippines in the 1970s and ’80s.

In the Country speaks to the heart of everyone who has ever searched for a place to call home. From teachers to housemaids, from mothers to sons, Alvar’s powerful debut collection explores the universal experiences of loss, displacement, and the longing to connect across borders both real and imagined. Deeply compassionate and richly felt, In the Country marks the emergence of a formidable new writer.

Nick Joaquin - The Woman Who Had Two Navels and Tales of the Tropical Gothic

Nick Joaquin is widely considered one of the greatest Filipino writers, but he has remained little-known outside his home country despite writing in English. His work meditates on the questions and challenges of the Filipino individual's new freedom after a long history of colonialism, exploring folklore, centuries-old Catholic rites, the Spanish colonial past, magical realism, and baroque splendour and excess. This collection features his best-known story, 'The Woman Who Had Two Navels,' centred on Philippine emigrants living in Hong Kong and later expanded into a novel, the much-anthologised story 'May Day Eve,' and a canonical play, A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino.

Simon Jimenez - The Vanished Birds

Nia Imani is a woman out of place and outside of time. Decades of travel through the stars are condensed into mere months for her, though the years continue to march steadily onward for everyone she has ever known. Her friends and lovers have aged past her; all she has left is work. Alone and adrift, she lives only for the next paycheck, until the day she meets a mysterious boy, fallen from the sky.

The scarred child does not speak, his only form of communication the beautiful and haunting music he plays on an old wooden flute. Captured by his songs and their strange, immediate connection, Nia decides to take the boy in. And over years of starlit travel, these two outsiders discover in each other the things they lack. For him, a home, a place of love and safety. For her, an anchor to the world outside of herself.

But Nia is not the only one who wants the boy. The past hungers for him, and when it catches up, it threatens to tear this makeshift family apart.

Mia Manansala - Arsenic and Adobo

When Lila Macapagal moves back home to recover from a horrible breakup, her life seems to be following all the typical rom-com tropes. She's tasked with saving her Tita Rosie's failing restaurant, and she has to deal with a group of matchmaking aunties who shower her with love and judgment. But when a notoriously nasty food critic (who happens to be her ex-boyfriend) drops dead moments after a confrontation with Lila, her life quickly swerves from a Nora Ephron romp to an Agatha Christie case.

With the cops treating her like she's the one and only suspect, and the shady landlord looking to finally kick the Macapagal family out and resell the storefront, Lila's left with no choice but to conduct her own investigation. Armed with the nosy auntie network, her barista best bud, and her trusted Dachshund, Longanisa, Lila takes on this tasty, twisted case and soon finds her own neck on the chopping block…

F.H. Batacan - Smaller and Smaller Circles

This harrowing mystery, winner of the Philippine National Book Award, follows two Catholic priests on the hunt through Manila for a brutal serial killer.

Payatas, a 50-acre dump northeast of Manila’s Quezon City, is home to thousands of people who live off of what they can scavenge there. It is one of the poorest neighborhoods in a city whose law enforcement is already stretched thin, devoid of forensic resources and rife with corruption. So when the eviscerated bodies of preteen boys begin to appear in the dump heaps, there is no one to seek justice on their behalf.

In the rainy summer of 1997, two Jesuit priests take the matter of protecting their flock into their own hands. Father Gus Saenz is a respected forensic anthropologist, one of the few in the Philippines, and has been tapped by the Director of the National Bureau of Investigations as a backup for police efforts. Together with his protégé, Father Jerome Lucero, a psychologist, Saenz dedicates himself to tracking down the monster preying on these impoverished boys.

Smaller and Smaller Circles, widely regarded as the first Filipino crime novel, is a poetic masterpiece of literary noir, a sensitive depiction of a time and place, and a fascinating story about the Catholic Church and its place in its devotees’ lives.

Rosa Henson - Comfort Woman

In April 1943, fifteen-year-old Maria Rosa Henson was taken by Japanese soldiers occupying the Philippines and forced into prostitution as a -comfort woman.- In this simply told yet powerfully moving autobiography, Rosa recalls her childhood as the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy landowner, her work for Huk guerrillas, her wartime ordeal, and her marriage to a rebel leader who left her to raise their children alone. Her triumph against all odds is embodied by her decision to go public with the secret she had held close for fifty years.



James M. Scott - Rampage: MacArthur, Yamashita and the Battle of Manila

In early 1945, General Douglas MacArthur prepared to reclaim Manila, America’s Pearl of the Orient, which had been seized by the Japanese in 1942. Convinced the Japanese would abandon the city, he planned a victory parade down Dewey Boulevard—but the enemy had other plans. The Japanese were determined to fight to the death. The battle to retake Manila resulted in the catastrophic destruction of the city and a rampage by Japanese forces that brutalized the civilian population, resulting in a massacre as horrific as the Rape of Nanking. Drawing from war-crimes testimony, after-action reports, and survivor interviews, Rampage recounts one of the most heartbreaking chapters of Pacific War history.



OTHER RECS:
Nick Joaquin - Portrait of An Artist as Filipino, May Day Eve, The House on Zapote Street, La Naval de Manila, Manila My Manila, Tatarin/The Summer Solstice
Merlinda Bobis - Fish-Hair Woman, The Kindness of Birds, Locust Girl
Eric Gamalinda - My Sad Republic
NVM Gonzalez - The Bread of Salt and Other Stories, The Winds of April
Jose Garcia Villa - Doveglion: Collected Poems, Footnote to Youth
Malaka Gharib - I Was Their American Dream
Elaine Castillo - America is Not the Heart
Glenn Diaz - The Quiet Ones
Jessica Hagedorn - Dream Jungle, Dogeaters
Lysley Tenorio - Monstress: short stories
Danton Remoto and J. Neil Garcia - Ladlad: An Anthology of Philippine Gay Writing
Danton Remoto - Riverrun
Catherine Ceniza Choy - Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History
Lucy Mae San Pablo Burns - Puro Arte: Filipinos on the Stages of Empire
Denise Cruz - Transpacific Femininities by Denise Cruz
F.H. Batacan - Smaller and Smaller Circles (book / film adaptation)
Alinaya Fabros - Outsourceable Selves: An Ethnography of Call Center Work in a Global Economy of Signs and Selves

9 Filipino Fiction to read in 2021 (Tatler Asia)
10 Local Reads (Spot PH)
Epic Fantasy (TOR)
10 best books in Philippine Literature (Culture Trip)
10 best books in Modern Philippine Literature (Culture Trip)


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I hope you guys have enjoyed the challenge this year and discovered many new reads :) OP won't be continuing the reading challenge next year, but I want to thank everyone who has participated over the years, you guys are the reason we've kept up the challenge for so long! It's been a pleasure to swap book recs and share the joy (and frustrations) of reading <3 Thank you to every ONTDer who has contributed to the posts, especially hjalmartazar!

So, what are are your picks for this month, ONTD??
Tags: books / authors, ontd reading challenge
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