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November 2019

In Our Own Words: Writing from the Philippines

Image: Corinne de San Jose, "Vanitas (Omnibus) Versions 1 to 25," 2015, inkjet print on Hahnemühle Photo rag® Bright White 310 gsm paper. Photo courtesy of SILVERLENS.

We’re delighted to present our first issue of writing from the Philippines. The Philippines has a long colonial history that has contributed to an incomplete understanding of the country’s plurality of cultures. The work here reclaims both language and literature to rewrite the conventional monolithic narrative imposed by colonial and nationalistic discourses. In the aftermath of a typhoon, Daryll Delgado flashes back to her multilingual childhood. Genevieve Asenjo’s homesick expats find comfort in karaoke. Waray poet Voltaire Oyzon dives into a love-hate relationship with water. In two views of indigenous communities, Joy Serrano-Quijano brings a child’s perspective to a militarized village, and M. J. Cagumbay Tumamac mourns the gradual disappearance of a traditional way of life. Anthropologist and writer Tito Valiente spins a traditional tale of a young woman romanced by a mythical being. Poets Marlon Hacla and Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles explore the philosophy of language and the meaning of experience, and Enrique Villasis takes poetic flight from a painting by artist Vicente Manansala. And Jessica Hagedorn speaks with us about living in and with multiple languages. Guest editors Kristian Sendon Cordero and Kristine Ong Muslim contribute an insightful introduction. Also this month, we bring you three tales of the otherworldly.

(Re)writing the Philippines: An Introduction

The works we have selected challenge a monolithic view of the fragmented histories and interconnected, overlapping cultures in the Philippines.

from “Remains”

Coconut trees, palm fronds gone. Decapitated.


Three or four days / he hangs out in our house.


“Languages Constantly Crackling in the Air”: A Conversation with Jessica Hagedorn

Not enough is known about the Philippines.


We belt out everything from ABBA to K-pop, to “Ang Pasko ay Sumapit,” grinding and wiggling.



How does one grasp making / sense of timing when to hurl and when to catch?


Erlina’s Sugilanon

Actually, the night Erlina first saw an Onglo was the night the creature was regenerating his power.

A Planned Brief Documentary on a Teenage Boy in a Badjao Village

Like a fish / in an aquarium, you are a source of distress and distraction.


Can’t Go Out

I want to cry and look for Papa, but I can’t go out.


Birds of Paradise, 1965

In the mind, a flock of birds, feathers from an unshakable, shadowy thing.


from “Melismas”

What / are the things we need to prepare?



Book Reviews

Writing From Elsewhere: A Timely Anthology Collects Tales of Displacement and Resettlement

Reviewed by Hannah Weber

Edited by Dohra Ahmad, The Penguin Book of Migration Literature puts together a challenging and insightful collection that attempts to reveal the myriad ways of experiencing human movement across nations and cultures.

“Me & Other Writing” Shows Marguerite Duras’ Recurring Exploration of Lifelong Obsessions

Reviewed by Allison Grimaldi-Donahue

Spanning thirty years, the essays selected and translated by Emma Ramadan and Olivia Baes range from meditations on reading and writing to personal pieces bordering on autofiction.

A Poignant Memoir by Naja Marie Aidt Grapples with the Trauma of a Tragic Death

Reviewed by Nataliya Deleva

The Danish writer creates a meta-text of mourning as she grieves the loss of her son in "When Death Takes Something From You Give It Back: Carl’s Book."

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