Reading Assignment

For Friday, August 31, 2007

Order for Masks by Virgie Moreno
Snail by Conchitina Cruz (Text below)
Snail by Tita Lacambra Ayala
Moth by G. Burce Bunao

Poems of Ophelia Alcantara Dimalanta especially:
A Kind of Burning
Time Factor
Coming to Grief
Flowers are for Picking, or are they?

All poems of Jose Garcia Villa.



Students may earn extra credit by participating in any Philippine Literature-related cultural and literary activities at UST and the community this September! 20 points to be credited after presentation of tickets and a short review of the opera.

Mayo..Bisperas ng Liwanag
Based on Nick Joaquin's May Day Eve, Mayo is an opera in three acts to be staged at the Cultural Center of the Philippines' Main Theater. (Libretto and lyrics by Fides Asencio, Music by Rey Paguio, Orchestral Arrangement by Rey Pacis, Stage Direction by Nazer Salcedo.)

Call the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP Complex) or Joy Rago at 0919-6577961. Ask for discounts.

September 11 3PM and 7PM
September 12 3PM and 7PM

I will watch on September 11 at 7pm. I suggest you read May Day Eve before watching the opera. May Day Eve is on page 118 of your lit102 reader. May Day Eve will be discussed in class last week of September. Incidentally, it is also one of the selections that failing students (including students who missed some quizzes due to absences) may read to prepare for the make up test on September 4.


since my mwf classes were not yet advised on contingency for failing students, special exams to make up for absences and failed quizzes will not push though this saturday. please wait for further announcement. the announcement should be finalized saturday morning. tentative date of the make up test is on Tuesday, August 28. meanwhile, please refer to some selections that you may read in preparation for the contingency. the selection will depend on case to case basis. Please bring your excuse letter, doctor's certificate or what have you on the day of the make up test.

For those who missed a quiz due to 1 absence :
Weight by Lakambini Sitoy
Eye of the Needle by Gilda Cordero Fernando

For those who missed more than 1 due to absenceS:
Weight by Lakambini Sitoy
Eye of the Needle by Gilda Cordero Fernando
Bread of Salt by NVM Gonzales

For those who would like to make up for failing quizzes and major exam, I will give a 10 pt quiz base on the following stories (each item will be worth 2 points each. I know it's not too much, but come on, this is to make up for your shortcomings. and did I tell you that beggars cant' be choosers? :P ):
Weight by Lakambini Sitoy
Eye of the Needle by Gilda Cordero Fernando
Bread of Salt by NVM Gonzales
May Day Eve by Nick Joaquin
The Day the Dancers Came by Bienvenido Santos

Should you have any comments, suggestions, questions, points of clarifications, please do not ask me along the corridor. Feel free to leave your message here on this thread. thank you and good luck!

Prelim Reminders

All ITHM students taking LIT102 prelim departmental exam later today at 1630hrs are required to use the official UST test booklet. This was announced to all TTH classes last week. For my MWF classes, except for 3T1, I shall be providing each section 45 pcs of test booklets payable next meeting.

People in the War --will include in the prelim

People in the War and Wilderness of Sweets by Gilda Cordero Fernando are stories set during World War II, but they are a far cry from the conventional war tale, which would emphasize scenes of battles, acts of heroism or cowardice and political choices.

These stories are about being at war, but they are not about fighting in it. They are about surviving in it.

Unlike the conventional war stories, People in the War and Wilderness of Sweets do not have anything to do with the combatants. There are no characters who are soldiers. The Japanese have but shadowy presence until the last part of the story, when they become simply nameless, insane butchers. The Americans do not even make an appearance. The political reasons for the war are never mentioned. The focus is on the travails of the civilian population.

The fact that the narrator is an adolescentmakes this plausible, enables the writer to concentrate on the story she wishes to tell.

IMAGING THE FILIPINO WOMAN. Theme: Love and the Erotic

Romantic Love is, of course, an important theme in the fiction by Filipino women. The erotic element, though generally downplayed, is there too. We see it even in the pre-war fiction, for instance in the stories of Estrella Alfon and Loreto Paras Sulit.

In the post war fiction, eroticism is continued to be expressed with great subtlety:

The Virgin (ca 1950's) by Kerima Polotan
and The Coral by Edith Tiempo

more explicit in the stories of Gilda Cordero Fernado (A Cake Left Out in the Rain)

and Tita Lacambra Ayala ( The Bird)

What the youngest women writers are doing with the themes is interesting:

Ma. Romina Gonzales in Welostit, Joy Dayrit in Mist and Lakambini Sitoy in Weight.

Eroticism is an aesthetic focused on sexual desires especially on the anticipation of sexual activity, state of arousal and an attempt through whatever means of representation to incite those feelings.

The erotic strain is a powerful one in the poetry in English by Filipino women from 1935 to the 90's: Tita Lacambra Ayala, Ophelia Dimalanta, Marjorie Evasco, Merlie Alunan, Kerima Polotan, Gilda Cordero Fernando, Estrella Alfon, Joy Dayrit, Ma. Romina Gonzalez, Lakambini Sitoy.

We have discussed the following stories:

Servant Girl (1930's), The Virgin (1952), Mist (1997) and Welostit (1997)

In Sythesis: What these stories have in common is that first of all, their tales are very much of the city. Their protagonists are independent creatures, very rarely depicted as part of a family--they live alone, work for a living, do not belong to anyone, least of all to the men they are in love with (or not in love with). Clearly, the female protagonists of the last four stories we've discusses fly in the teeth of any attempt to fit them into traditional female roles. Indeed, they don't even seem to be aware of these roles.


Attention: All LIT102 under me

Gilda Cordero Fernando's "People in the War" will be included in the Prelim exam. I have discussed the introduction of the story in some classes. Unfortunately, due to the significant lost contact hours, I was not able to discuss this in other classes. To make up for this, you may either attend my make up class on Friday afternoon by leaving a message/comment in this post that you are interested, or you may read my introduction on the selection. The intriduction/lecture will be posted on wednesday night.

SERVANT GIRL by Estrella Alfon

Estrella Alfon's "Servant Girl" is cut from a different cloth. Rosa is a healthy, down to earth female specimen acutely concsious of her own physical attractions, and sharply aware of the ineterest of the two men who circle her like fighting cocks ruffling their feathers at a hen. One is tempted to describe the story as a female version of Manuel Arguilla's "Midsummer", which has at its heart archetypal Man and Woman. But this is a more complex story.

First, there is the girl's fantasy about the cochero, whom she conceives as different from other men, more gallant, more gentle, and to whom she gives the name "Angel." Besides him, Sancho, her admirer, seems brutish and rude.

And then there is her relationship with her mistress, who is alternately abusive and generous with her. Though she has moments of rebellion against the treatment she receives from her mistress, Rosa basically accepts it as part of the scheme of things, even as she accepts being hit by a man.

Question: is this a surprisingly conservative story (surprising, in view of the fact that the author was known to be highly unconventional, and was once actually put on trial for writing pronography)?

The story raises issues--about class and about gender--which it does not really explore or resolve. It ends on a quiet note, with apparent acceptance of the way things are. And it is, incidentally, one of Alfon's most neatly structured and well-told stories.

WELOSTIT by Romina Gonzalez

Romina Gonzalez's Welostit is a sad-funny story about a love affair between a 35 year old yuppie and her favorite teen-aged nephew's bestfriend, a love affair doomed because such things are not to be even in sophisticated Manila. The story is rich in the sort of detail which enables the reader to "place" the characters securely in their time and place, the sort of detail National Artist Nick Joaquin has always urged upon storytellers, something it has in common with the much shorter Sitoy story. But most important, while trying hard to sound clever and tough (a cardinal rule for yuppiehood), it is very moving. For instance, in the scene when, after coming through painful childbirth, the woman awakes in the middle of the night to find him--the young father of her child -- beside her, with his parents (in whose mind she is the wicked Temptress), and before slipping back into a Demerol-induced haze, hears him whisper, "Welostit, which I thought was what you wanted to name her."

Question: how is Gonzalez's protagonist different from the other female protagonist in this section? Is this a subversive text?

The Virgin by Kerima Polotan

The title of Kerima Polotan's "The Virgin" gives us the subject-virginity, female virginity, a cherished value of Filipino Male culture. By presenting its protagonist as "victim" rather than heroine of this value system, the text subverts it. Reflecting on her virginal state, Miss Mijares does so "with a mixture of shame and bitterness and guilt"

The story's eroticism is heightened by the lyrical, almost cadenced language. (The eroticism is quite explicit for it's time, and the foregrounding of a woman's sexulity is also rather in advance of its time.) But the use of symbolism is a bit too obvious--the paperweight, the dream of being lost, the jeepney's detour, the storm.

Miss Mijares is a dutiful daughter, sacrificing herself, in this case, for a sick mother, and becoming a spinster, a pathetic figure, her sternness of manner and abruptness of speech, disguise for an aching loneliness. Referring to her as "Miss Mijares" underlines her primmness, as well as her distance from the carpenter. She is slim and frail-looking, which contrasts with the carpenter's physical streghth and size.

The carpenter has a certain grace, poise, confidence "walking with an economy of movement, graveful and light, a man who knew his body and used it well", which comes from being easy in his skin, which Miss Mijares, decidedly, is not.

Miss Mijares' over reaction to the discovery that the carpenter has fathered a child by a woman he is not married to reveals the extent of her acquiescence to the system--moral, social, etc. Discovering that he has "feet of clay," she suddenly notices everything else that is wrong with him--his stupid grin, his defective teeth.

In capitulating to her desire and her loneliness, does Miss Mijares triumped over the system in which she is trapped? The language would suggest that this is not so: note the pathos of the final line ("with her ruffles wet and wilted, in the dark, she turned to him...") She remains an absurd, even grotesque figure.

The subversion of the prevailing value system is not complete.

Question: is the portrayal of Miss Mijares sympathetic to the value system or to its overturning?

MIST by Joy Dayrit

Joy Dayrit's Mist is so short and so quiet and so subtle that it is almost poetry. Here, hardly anything happens. A woman in a boarding house watched a male dancer practising in the garden path. "She liked his smell, the sweat after practice. The tang of it hurt her nose when she inhaled, and when it traveled to the base of her, it was pleasure." She takes a shower in the common bathroom. She inspects her body as she dries herself. Then she notices the door is slightly ajar and a shadow drifting across the opening. Or maybe it was no one. Just her own forgetfulness. Or maybe it was he.

The Bird by Tita Lacambra Ayala

The world of “The Bird” by Tita Lacambra-Ayala (Lacambra-Ayala 1984) is a female world seen through the eyes of a female. There are male characters in the story – the narrator’s father and the “Chinaman” who buys the family’s coconuts – but they are peripheral. At the story’s center are the pre-pubescent protagonist-narrator and Sisa, her maid.

In Sisa I have my first example of those older women characters whose relationship with the adolescent female characters I wish to examine. Sisa is also a recurring figure in the fiction of Filipino women – the yaya or housekeeper, surrogate mother for the adolescent heroine, usually a “natural woman,” wise in a different way from the other adult female characters, a kind of priestess who is to initiate the young protagonist into the world she must enter.

Her importance is stressed by the story’s opening line: “It was all Sisa’s fault anyway.” And her connection to the natural life forces is underlined by her being linked with nature images. Her hair is “like a black waterfall falling down in straight lines”; she oils herself up “like a snake”; the “waves in her voice” grow “like the rising tide”; the rhythm of her days seems to follow the rising and setting of the sun. As a maid, she takes charge of the daily chores associated with safety, security, the routine-doing the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry. Yet there is something enigmatic, something vaguely irrational-even slightly dangerous-about her, something the narrator senses but cannot define. Far from being “savage,” however, she appears to possess a higher level of knowledge. This “superiority” reinforced by her speaking in a more “poetic” language than the language of narration:

Sometimes when the waiting is strong, the bird does not come… Then one day, if you’re patient enough but nearing the end of your patience it will appear.

The protagonist’s feelings toward Sisa are ambivalent. There is envy mixed with admiration mixed with repulsion. This ambivalence provides the tension of the story.

In the beginning of the narrative, Sisa is combing her long hair with regular strokes which lull the narrator to a near-hypnotic state.

I felt very lonely, like I wanted to go home somewhere but didn’t know where. I swam in the feeling for a while, staring at the blue flowers on her brown dress…

Sisa’s skin glistens “from her own natural oils and the coconut essence” and the narrator wonders vaguely “if other parts of her body were just as oily.” She also imagines that in a day or two, Sisa will “probably smell rancid and overripe.”

The “repressed material” here has to do with sexuality. But because the narrator is so young, she is barely aware of what is going on. This awakening happens in a “bamboo house” by the sea, drenched alternately by sunlight or moonlight. Over and under its sawali walls, lizards “wove their loveliness and housekeeping without a thought for human beings.”

Sisa has told the narrator of a bird that “comes from a long way,” so far away that “even as it flies to you its limbs grow and its feathers lengthen ageing in its flight.”

She said that if I sat beside the window facing the sea without moving, for hours on end, a bird would come and sit on my head and nest there.

Is it simply a story designed to make a child keep still, or does Sisa actually believe in the big bird, or is she trying to teach the protagonist something, and doing it through metaphoric language?

The bird is a powerful figure, and associated with maleness in the narrator’s mind. The imagery used to describe it is undeniably sensuous, deliberately reminiscent of Leda and her swan.

The girl imagines the shadow of the bird’s wide wing falling over her as she floats on her back in the sea, “beckoning me out of the water and on the house so that I might sit there and wait its arrival.” In her sleep, she feels “the clasp of its claws” on her hip, “its weight pressing me closer to the mat, its tail fanning my underside.” Sometimes it seems somewhat sinister… “when the sea was still and the moon was up I thought it came in the guise of a bat gliding strongly among the palms.” At others, it is mysterious, “invisible like a wind,” entering “dead-blind into the bamboo house slapping against the sawali.” She is both afraid of it, and sorry for it,

…Silently perched on the nipa roof… resting its travel-worn head under its wings, hiding its eyes front the moonlight, its fine head feathers trembling in the wind.

She feels certain it is beautiful-either white-grey like a dove, or bright blue like a kingfisher “brilliant and elusive, the lone flash of color in the black of night,” or sliver and red. But always, half blind, and circling

…Endlessly above the house and higher searching for me, uttering a forlorn cry, and never finding me.

Why “half blind” or “blind?” Perhaps this is a reference to the undiscriminating force of sexuality. The yearning for the bird, which invades her dreams and reduces her to tears is a yearning for love, a need to be possessed, which she only half comprehends. It is a waiting which becomes more intense at night.

The mysteries if the dark made him more changeable and fascinating, the span of wings wider, the song of deeper call. His reality extended from the sounds and shadows if the hours into the immeasurable ravines of sleep.

In her fantasies, the bird sometimes “finds” her, and “under all the wet feathers I would feel its hot skin, its heartbeat fast and strong under my hand.”

The reader is prepared for the story’s denouement, first by focusing on the weather. It is a “clammy morning, the air heavy with damp from the night’s rain.” The sun “had risen too early and too hot.” Everyone is edgy or distracted or morose, the Chinaman who is the object of the protagonist’s errand in town is not in. riding back with him in his truck, she closes her eyes against the dust and sees “red and orange lights, spots of violet and light green and blue dancing in different sizes, advancing then rearranging and blending inside my eyes.”

Back home again, the narrator finds Sisa is not at her usual post by the door to greet her. She eats a solitary lunch, then heads for the room she shares with the maid. It is locked. When she calls to Sisa, Sisa replies in an “urgent and threatening” voice, telling her to go away. “I’m making a nest,” Sisa says. The narrator becomes wildly excited, imagining herself “likewise making a nest with straw and palm fronds. Mother’s shawl, soft and downy things. Anything. Anything.” But Sisa will not let her in, despite her shrieks of “I want to see…Let me in.” She can hear shuffling sounds, the bamboo slats of the floor moving.

The narrator finally breaks into the room, using a bolo to dislodge the strip of wood barring the door, to confront a completely naked Sisa, sitting serenely amid a pile of clothes and pillows,

…Just sitting there in the middle of her nest, staring at me with dark round eyes with something like amusement and smugness in them, just as if she expected me to envy her.

And though she sees nothing else in the dark, enclosed room, the narrator feels the presence of “something that has long been expected and had finally arrived,” eyeing her curiously, questioning her “impertinent presence.” She backs out slowly, disturbed by the
unameable presence-unameable because not yet understood-and-by Sisa’s “strange sharp eyes.” And she runs down the stairs to call her mother.

Is she intending to tell on Sisa? To ask her to explain Sisa’s behavior? Or is she merely seeking the safety she has lost? There is nothing in the story to suggest that she will find it. Her relationship with her mother has been depicted as rather pallid and unsubstantial when contrasted with her relationship with Sisa. More likely, her initiation into womanhood will continue.

All of this is narrated with great subtlety. And if not for the detail of Sisa’s nakedness in the last scene, it would be quite possible to read the story-as it must have been read by an older generation of teachers of Philippine literature in English-without acknowledging its erotic content. But without it, what, then, would one make of the story?

Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, PhD
A Gentle Subversion: Essays on Philippine Fiction, 1998

Why Study The Narratives of Women

Feminists have called our attention to the "cultural duality” of women’s lives, to the fact that women often participate in a general male-dominated culture, and the same time, in a women’s culture or sub-culture. This woman’s culture is different from and sometimes critical of, or opposed to, the central dominant system of meaning and values. In short, women frequently exist and operate within two planes which are sometimes compatible and sometimes contradictory.

Simone de Beauvoir, in her pioneering book, The Second Sex (1961), described this paradoxical situation of women who “band together in order to establish a counter-universe, but always… set it up within the frame of the masculine universe.” Behind their docility is rebellion, but behind the rebellion is surrender.

We will look at how this cultural duality is reflected in the literary texts of Filipinas writing in English. we will examine how these writers have managed to “write in the interstices of masculine culture, moving between the use of the dominant language or form of expression and specific versions of experience based on their marginality” (Kaplan 1991). we will try to answer these questions: given their position as women in a post-colonial culture, what stories have they chosen to tell and retell? What strategies have they employed? Have the strategies been effective, i.e., have they resulted in a subversion of the dominant culture and its values? Can these texts be read as a form of empowerment?

Readings for the course are arranged around selected themes and strategies. (Of course the choice of a theme is also a strategy.) And within each group, they are arranged in a roughly, chronological order.

The number of Filipino women writers from the pre-war period to the early sixties is disappointingly small. It is only the mid-sixties that this begins to change. One need only glance at the Table of Contents of Gemino H. Abad’s three volume history of Philippine poetry in English to recognize this. In the first volume, Man of Earth (1989), which covers the period 1905 to the mid-50s, there are only seven women. In the second volume, A Native Clearing (1993), which covers the period from the 50s to the 80s, there are only five. But in the third volume, which brings us into the 90s, there are 30. This is still way below the number of male writers, which is 66, but it is an improvement, and we can take comfort in the thought that more women are finding their voices today. (Feminists will undoubtedly point out that the editor of these anthologies is male – although the first volume was co-edited with Edna Manlapaz – and that a female editor, using perhaps a different set of criteria for including or excluding texts, might have come up with more women poets.)

If someone were to compile a similar anthology of the short fiction by Filipino women, the results would probably not be too different.

What To Do Prior To Critical Engagement

Before we begin our discussions of the selected texts, a quick refresher. This is an important lesson I have learned from Dr. Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, one of my professors in Women's Literature:

What a work of fiction does is create a world, an imagined world, which may or may not have a correspondence with what we call the real world”. The reader is expected to enter this world and for the duration of the story, live in it, in effect. The technical term for that activity, the seduction – willing or unwilling, wholehearted or half-hearted – of the reader (an activity prior to critical engagement) is “suspension of disbelief”. To the extent that the writer has done his job well, the seduction will last, the spell will hold.

Before any analysis can take place, the reader needs to be able to define or describe that world into which the text has introduced him or her.

It will be assumed that students are familiar with the following basic questions, and that they realize that the answers to these questions will be the first basis for any readings of a literary text.

Ø What is the world of the story?
Ø What are the people who inhabit it like?
Ø How is the reader able to determine this?
Ø What is the story about?
Ø What effect (in the reader) does it seem to want to bring about?
Ø How does it to do this? (What techniques? strategies? devices?)
Ø Are these methods particularly striking? particularly original? particularly imaginative?

One of the first things I usually ask my students to do is describe the story. I want to find out their impression of the story. This may involve a synopsis of the story which is already an indication of how the students understood the story. The critical engagement follows.

While in the discussion of Love and the Erotic in the literature of women (a sub-topic in Imaging the Filipino Woman) I will be posting in this site lectures of Dr. Hidalgo, including a critical analysis of The Bird (Tita Lacambra Ayala) which appeared in her Gentle Subversion: Essays on Philippine Fiction, 1998.

Philippine Contemporary Fiction

Prior to the 1920’s, Philippine short stories are better classified as tales rather than stories, mostly ghost tales or folktales explaining natural phenomena with a theme in which a moral was brought home to the reader. Plot structure was worked along the easy, chronological, “and then” method, to use E.M. Froster’s terminology. The short-story writers of that era drew mostly on Western culture and Western models.
By the 1930’s the market for the Philippine short stories in English was no longer confined solely to the home front but had started to break into print abroad as well. Among the prominent writers were Paz Marquez Benitez, Paz Latorena, Arturo B. Rotor, Amador Daguio, Loreto Paras Sulit, Carlos Bulosan, and Manuel Arguilla. Bienvenido Santos and N.V.M Gonzales, although writing at that time, were not to gain wider recognition and a larger audience until after World War II. The years immediately before the war were characterized by a desire to create a “national literature”, not merely by writing about simple rustic life, Philippine flora and fauna, and Philippine national heroes, but by attempting to define the national psyche or identity, however evasive that might be.
By the end of the 1930’s the Philippine short story had already improved in quality, offering plausible characterization, a stricter control of language, and interesting situations and themes. The “modern” short story (in the sense of “contemporary” or “twentieth century”) was not to be written until after the war.

Manuel Arguilla, who died before the war, wrote the most significant prewar collection, How My Brother Leon Brought Home a Wife and Other Stories, exemplifying a dynamic tension between social commitment and artistic excellence – the objective of good literature both before the war and for all time. The social not was pursued in Carlos Bulosan’s America Is in the Heart, in the choice of subject matter and characters like the peasants and the laborers, and in the portrayal of the effects of politics on the private lives of people, the interrelation between economic conditions and political power.

N.V.M. Gonzales began writing in the 1930’s, but his first short-story collection was not published until 1947, when Seven Hills Away appeared. Other distinguished collections followed, all products of serious artistic effort and of an artistic creed which upheld the belief that art must involve working with material (a serious craft) and must be a thing of beauty (artistic/form). The social note in Gonzalez’s fiction never called attention to itself and never took precedence over the artistic objective, and Gonzalez was long considered the supreme craftsman, training many of his students at the University of the Philippines and the University of Santo Tomas always to labor with loving attention over every line and detail.

Likewise, Francisco Arcellana started literary career before the war, but his influence and reputation as one of the Philippines’ finest writers did not spread until after the war. His artistic ingenuity is most apparent in Divide by Two, with its strong emotional impact, its subtle manipulation of symbols, and the powerful rhythm of its language. Bienvenido Santos was another prewar youth and postwar writer whose first book of short stories, You Lovely People, about Filipino exiles in America during the war, was not published until well after the war’s end in 1955. Like Gonzalez and Arcellana, he wrote mostly about loneliness, alienation, and homesickness, all postwar maladies. And of course there was Nick Joaquin, who stood above his contemporaries both as craftsman and as cultural historian. His mastery of the language is manifested in his flexible style, one that could be lush and exuberant one moment, slangy or colloquial and very contemporary the next, depending on his subject, his vision matched only by a creative power that was quite unsurpassed in its sense of history, tradition, and art.

Gregorio Brillantes, in his volume of short fiction titled Distance to Andromeda and in other short stories, wrote particularly about the generation under thirty, adolescent and postadolescent youths who suffered alienation from family, from society, and from themselves. Brillantes writes with a sure hand, frequently offering rich insights about the Catholic faith as it illumines the lives of countless Filipino families.

These were the big names in the field of the short story, the artists who never used their art as a tool for social and political propaganda. More than mere preoccupation with form, their writing showed that they had significant truths to express and personal visions to share. More names shone on the horizon: Kerima Tuvera, Gilda Cordero Fernando, Aida Rivera Ford, Juan Gatbonton, and Andres Cristobal Cruz, to name but a few.

The 1960’s were, summarily, a period when writers seriously grappled with problems of art. The early 1970’s saw a proliferation of politically motivated or committed writing and protest literature. Short-story writers became more conscious of the political milieu and of social issues in the wake of the increased activism all over the world and right in their country, especially during the troubled days of a dictatorial government. Some of the more recent fiction writers include Paulino Lim, Alfred Yuson, Jose Dalisay, Mario Eric Gamalinda, and Cristina P. Hidalgo.

In the meantime, what about the novelists? The war provided postwar novelists with a subject. Stevan Javellana’s Without Seeing the Dawn focuses on an antiheroic protagonist hardened and embittered by the war, but ultimately vindicating himself and becoming almost heroic in the process. Edilberto Tiempo, the fiction writer and critic, wrote with an awareness of social history but remained strictly formalistic in his firm grasp of craft and his handling of history. Bienvenido Santos worked with a sense of pathos, irony, and realism, and took up the theme of personal and sociocultural alienation, especially among Filipinos stranded in America during the war, suffering from intense homesickness but somehow managing to endure with strength and fortitude and “loveliness” of spirit.

Francisco Sionil Jose’s monumental Rosales saga, which is made up of five novels, has, more than any other series of works, touched on this Filipino search for roots, as well as on struggle, social corruption, and the fight for social justice in postcolonial times. No other writer has been more widely translated on his own country and other countries. N.V.M. Gonzalez’s novels also reflect discipline, control, and irony, best reflected in his portrayal of the harsh world of the fisherfolk and peasants who endured and prevailed with dignity and grace in the face of pressure and want. His novels are manifestations of reality turned art.

Recent novelists have ventured into the murky terra incognita of postmodernism, rejecting the traditional concepts of fiction, portraying a world devoid of value and meaning, interweaving literature with journalism, history, biography, and even criticism. The objective is merely “pleasure of the text” through verbal or psychological constructs, a totality of vision. Examples of such avant-garde Filipino fictionists are Mario Eric Gamalinda, Jessica Hagedorn, and Alfred Yuson, to name but three of the more prominent figures.

Meanwhile, the influence of literature in the country is imperiled by the impact of modern technology on life and culture, and the Filipino writer feels it his responsibility to put literature back on track and in the center of life, aware of the perpetual need to upgrade and transform it into a meaningful social yet artistically forward-moving activity, opening up to a large interdependent world, listening to the polyphony of voices which could add to their own largeness of spirit and understanding, aware that they cannot continue to write in isolation, that each of the writings of all writers of the world is but a mere episode within that one general experience of the universal person forever in the process of unfolding and evolving.
(Required Reading! I post here Dr. Ophelia Dimalanta's Introduction to Philippine Contemporary Fiction which appeared in OAD Reader Vol. 2, 2006. Ma'am Ophie's Introduction is educational and more than worth your while.)

The Contemporary Philippine Novel in English

Nota Bene: Not part of the prelims! You may read this later.

Most contemporary Philippine novels are historical novels. In these, history does not merely provide the setting, but enters into the motivation of the characters, peoples the plot. The characters are political beings; their conflicts are engendered by political events. I would even claim that the real protagonist here is the nation itself and the real conflict its desperate struggle for survival. This, it seems to me, is the most important change in the last two decades.

This tradition of writing has always existed in the Filipino novel in all languages. But, while it may not have been the dominant trend in the Filipino novel in English in the past, of late it clearly has been so. Contemporary novelists have all gone beyond the recording of their protagonists’ personal conflicts to focus on the larger problems plaguing the nation. The protagonists of many of these novels are in many ways reincarnations of Rizal’s Crisostomo Ibarra, perhaps an indication of both the enduring power of Rizal on the imagination of Filipino middle-class writers and the inescapable aftermath of the historical situation that gave rise to his novels. Here then, over and over again, is the middle-class intellectual, unable to escape his or her roots, determined to save his or her country, thwarted both by the sinister power of the enemy (in some cases still the colonial master of old, in others his surrogate) and by the tragic flaw in his or her own character, which often is indecision.

In their attempt to (re )write the story, contemporary Filipino novelists have appropriated a number of different strategies, ranging from those of conventional realistic fiction(as in Jose Y. Dalisay’s Killing time in a Warm Place, Renato Madrid’s Devil Wings, Carlos Cortes’s Longitude, and the novel of Ediberto Tiempo, F.Sionil Jose, and Antonio Enriquez), to those associated with marvelous realism and postmodernism (as in Eric Gamalinda’s Confessions of a Volcano and Empire of Memory and Alfred Yuson’s Great Philippine Jungle Energy Cafe). They explore Philippine mythical material, an important part of the work of retrieval, of reconstruction, of the retelling of the story (as in Erwin Castillo’s Firewalkers and Cecilia Manguera Brainard’s Song of Yvounne). They employ such postmodern techniques as the collage, a variety of language Registers, discontinuity of narration, et cetera, to depict the fragmentations and carnivalsque quality of modern Philippine life (as in Gina Apostol’s Bibliolepsy and Alfred Yuson’s Voyeurs and Savages). And, though some of the novels end on an ambiguous note, with the protagonist still trapped in indecision, most-including the one comic novel in the group, The Great Philippine Jungle Energy Café--finish on a note of affirmation.

A few novels actually conclude with a statement of what the author perceives as the role the writer must play within the postcolonial context. And what is that role? The writer must protest; he must resist his own alienation, his own marginalization, for s/he is the conscience of his race. And the writer must remember, for s/he is its memory. Thus ,these novels are steps toward retrieving the nation’s fragmented past and making it whole, rewriting the story written by the conquerors so that we, the conquered, and our descendants might know it and be healed. Though imaginative reconstruction, our novelists have undertaken the reexamination and reinterpretation of our long, complex colonial history, as well as our more recent history under the Marcos dictatorship. In this they are simply being absolutely true to tradition.

THE FUTURE. It should be mentioned that many of the contemporary Philippine writer in English are expatriates, like Villa, Bulosan. And Santos, and like Rizal and his comrades before them. Some of this new generation of expatriate writers has partly penetrated the main stream in the USA, among them Jessica Hagedorn and Bino Realuyo. Unlike the Bulosan generation, however, they are not writing American immigrant novels. Many are writing historical Philippine novels, something which Oscar V. Campomanese sees as a strategy for making themselves “visible”, a means of coping with their exile that is different from that taken by the first generation of expatriate writers (Campomanes, 163-65).
I see this as a significant trend - namely, the increasing importance of the Diaspora - in Philippine literature. The attention given to ethnic American studies and minority discourse in universities in the U.S. has opened a window for Asian –American writers. On the one hand, it has created an audience for ethnic American literature, including Asian American literature; on the other hand, it has stimulated U.S. - born Filipino American writers to return to the Philippines in search of their roots. Among the Fil- Am fiction writers now published in the U.S. are: Ninotchka Rosca with State of War(1998) and Twice Blessed(1999), Jessica Hagedorn with Dogeaters(1990),Cecilia Mnguera Brainard with When the Rainbow Goddess Wept(1995),Arlene Chai with The Last Time I Saw Mother(1995)and Eating Fire and Drinking Water(1997),Michele Skinner with Mango Seasons (1996),Rinehart Zamor Linmark with Rolling the R’s (1995),Peter Bacho with Cebu(1991), Bino Realuyo with Umbrella Country(1999),and the short-story writers Marianne Villanueva. Evalina Galang and Eric Gamalinda.

In Philippine classrooms, students will sometimes raise the issue of why these writers are being taught in Philippine literature courses, when in fact they are now Americans. My response has always been that I do not see the difference between them and Jose Garcia Villa, Carlos Bulosan, and Bienvenido Santos. There was never ant objection raised to teaching those authors as Filipino writers. The Diaspora is an aspect of the Philippine reality which cannot be ignored. A more important question might be: will we cease to regard these newer authors as “Filipino” when they switch to American as subject and theme, as indeed Jessica Hagedorn has done in The Gangster of Love(1996)

Another trend in the new millennium will be growing importance of the Internet. Access to cyberspace has already made possible the forging of stronger ties between Filipino and Filipino-American writers. Naturally, this is both a plus and a minus. On the one hand, we can today, more than ever, speak of belonging to a community of writers. Writers base both in the Philippines and in the U.S. and other countries are in direct personal contact through e-mail and contribute to Internet magazines such as Likhaan on Line, hosted by the University of the Philippines Creative Writing Center, and Legmanila, hosted by a group of young UP professors, as well as to other electronic’ zines hosted by Filipino living in different countries. On the other hand, these close connections could have the result of alienating Philippine writing in English even farther from Philippine writing in Filipino and the other Philippine languages; for of course, it is the writer in English who is likely to be most drawn to internet, since the over whelming majority of the material there is in English.

The fact that the Net is interactive adds yet another dimension, and now we are able to download novels from the Internet. All this, and other as yet unforeseeable development, will inevitably affect the type of novels being written. Already computer games, e-mail, and the concept of virtual reality have entered into fiction, affecting not just subject matter but narrative strategy as well. Yuson’s Voyeurs and Savages, for example, combine actual e-mail message from people like Eric Gamalinda, Rowena Torrevillas, Evalina Galang, and Eileen Tabios with newspaper clippings and other texts along with a straightforward----albeit fragmented----narrative. Fragmentation and collage are also characteristic of Bibliolepsy and Rolling the R’s. in the future, we will perhaps see serial novels on the internet, or novels on CD, which will be regularly revised and updated, or interactive novels, or a new type of graphic novel produced completely by the writers themselves working with computer graphics and scanners.

According to Jose Y. Dalisay Jr., we have now achieved “a degree of performance and sophistication that we can rightly be proud of, wherever our aesthetic, philosophical or ideological preferences may incline” (Dalisay,145). Though he was speaking of the Philippine short story, I think his assertions may be made of the novel in English as well. Describing the younger generation of Philippine fiction writers, he says they are “generally well-schooled, well-red, and well-traveled, which lends their work a certain consciousness of form, a deliberation of design” (Dalisay, 150)

Their chosen issues tend to be those of gender and sexuality, the environment, cultural identity, and individual freedom. They have material aplenty, but seemingly no single, defining experience, in the way the War or the First Quarter Storm was for their predecessors…...their response to aggravation is rarely anger, but irony and wit, perhaps withdrawal….. They possess a deftness of language that comes not only for reading, but also from speaking and listening to the language all the time; it is an English inflected with the resonances and accents of that pop culture, the internet, the stock market, and yet also of that home in the province that no one ever quite leaves behind. (Dalisay, 151)

Realism remains the dominant style, but many writers are experimenting with marvelous realism, science fiction, the comic book, horror, parody, and other forms of metafiction0 one result is a blurring of the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction, between fiction and drama. The writers no longer seem to feel bound to defend their choice of English. After all, many of them are bilingual. “ indeed, we are witnessing the continuing de-Americanization of English ,its appropriation by Filipino writers for Filipino subjects and purposes” (Dalisay,151).it is not unlikely that in the future some novels will be written not in just one language but in two or three, a reflection of the way most Filipino experience the world. Quite possibly, the language of narration might be a form of “standard English” (I enclose the tern in quotation marks to underline the fact that it is problematic), but the dialogue, and even tha characters’ thoughts, may well be rendered in a mixture of Taglish, Engslog, Cebuano, Iluko, swardspeak, colegialaspeak, El-shadai-speak, et cetera as demanded by the character.

CONCLUSION. Is it true that Philippine literature in general is enjoying a kind of “Golden Age”? Well, that may be too grandiose a claim. But if one is to judge by the publishing scene, which has never been so vigorous, or by the appearance of bookstores which not only carry Philippine literature titles, or by the number of literary contests or, particularly, the proliferation of creative –writing workshops and courses both inside and outside academe, and lately even of creative-writing centers, the answer would have to be that it is not doing badly at all.

And what of its audience? Is there a larger audience now for Philippine literature? Paradoxically, the answer to this question would have to be “Just a little, not much.” This is to be regretted, of course, but it has its advantages. Since very few writers in English are dependent on their writing for a living, they are , in a rather paradoxical way, free—free to write in any way they please, free to be as outrageous, as innovative, as daring as they choose to be. This ensures that, although the audience for their work may not be growing as fast as one would wish it, the literature itself is in constant flux. It is growing, changing, transforming. We can only hope that, in one of its transformations, it will find, finally, that it is speaking to and for not just a faithful band of literati but a mass audience as well.


Course Objective

A. General Objectives

This course is designed to develop among students an awareness and appreciation of the depth and breadth of our country’s literatures in order to foster among them the desire for truth, love for country and nature, which will eventually constitute a competent, compassionate and committed Thomasian.

B. Specific Objectives

At the end of the course, the students are expected to:

1. Read and Analyze literary selections that exemplify the multivalent Filipino experiences and their multivocal articulations
2. Understand how the Filipino is constituted in Philippine literary texts.
3. Appreciate the different types and forms of Filipino literatures.
4. Value cultural differences and similarities embodied in Philippine Literary outpourings.
5. Write a critique paper on a Filipino novel, epic or drama.
6. Transform and extend creatively Philippine Literary materials to other artistic expression.

Course Methodolgies

1. Lectures
2. Report/Discussion
3. Creative/Critical Writing
4. Drama Presentation/Dramatic Reading
5. Film Viewing
6. Field Exposure

Recomended Reading

Abad, Gemino H. 1978. A formal approach to lyric poetry. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press.
Galdon, Joseph A. 1979. Essays on the Filipino novel in English. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.

Class Schedule
(subject to change)

Each student is expected to:

1. Participate actively in the building of learning atmosphere conducive to openness, mutual respect, friendliness -and joy in the learning process.
2. Be responsible in terms of preparedness for discussion, tests, projects and activities.
3. Conduct independent study and research in background and relevant information that can enrich knowledge and understanding of the subject-matter.
4. Share findings of independent study in written reports and group discussions.
5. Complete and submit all requirements on time.


All readings in this course have been put together by the instructor and will be duplicated at the lowest possible cost for the students.

· Lit102 Course pack -- Readings in Contemporary Philippine Literature in English compiled by Timothy Sanchez
· Handouts
· Filipino novels in English (as chosen by students), available at all major bookstores.


Please refer to the syllabus.


Extra Credit

To make up for absences, failing quizzes and examinations, or poor grades in the writing activities, students may earn extra credit by participating in any Philippine-related cultural and literary activities at UST and the community; or by submitting additional written work (movie reviews; book reviews, etc.) about Philippine-related topics. This may be resorted to after consultation with the instructor.

Make up quizzes for excused absences and failing quizzes will be conducted after the Prelim Exams. The schedule will be announced in this site.