One of the members of our Manila fountain pen group decided to start a small book club. We had our first meeting last weekend, where we figured out what books we’d all like to read. We’ll focus on a book each month, focusing initially on Filipino writers writing in English. There are so many good books out there, but it’s a shame not to read the writers of one’s own country. The guys in our group made a request not to have to read romance novels, and the rest of us heartily agreed (hahaha!).
This May we’re tackling the late Kerima Polotan‘s 1961 Stonehill Award-winning novel “The Hand of the Enemy”. In June we’ll be reading her collection of essays “Adventures in a Forgotten Country”. Both books are published by the University of the Philippines Press. Also in our list is Jose Y. Dalisay, Jr.‘s Killing Time in a Warm Place (Anvil Publishing), a novel based on his experiences as a Martial Law detainee. (Incidentally, Butch Dalisay is the founder of our fountain pen group. We’re asking him to sign our copies.) We’ll follow with National Artist Nick Joaquin‘s May Day Eve & Other Stories. Next up is Esteban Javellana‘s 1947 classic “Without Seeing The Dawn” (which was made into a Tagalog tv mini-series when I was a child). We’re also reading young Palanca winner F. H. Batacan‘s mystery novel featuring a “Jesuit priest who is also a forensic anthropologist as sleuth”, Smaller and Smaller Circles (UP Press). Then we’ll read another classic of Filipino immigrant fiction, Carlos Bulosan‘s America is in the Heart (Anvil Publishing). Just so we don’t get stuck on novels, we also picked a book of essays edited by Erlinda Panlilio, The Manila We Knew (Anvil Publishing). Then for something totally different, there’s Resil Mojares‘s Isabelo’s Archive (Anvil Publishing), a compilation of essays and notes on Philippine culture and history, based “on Isabelo de los Reyes’ groundbreaking attempt to build an archive of popular knowledge in the Philippines.” And then there is Bambi Harper‘s new historical novel, Agueda (University of Sto. Tomas Publishing House). There is also Luis Francia‘s History of the Philippines: From Indios Bravos to Filipinos to consider.
The titles or order of reading might change. But it’s good to have a reading list. If we didn’t sit down to plan this, we wouldn’t know where to start! We can’t always meet in person, but we can always email our reading notes to each other.
From this list you can see we all have this common interest in literature, history (national and personal) and culture. Indeed, in Jose Rizal’s words, “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa kanyang paroroonan.” (He who does not look back from where he came will never reach his destination.)