10 Noteworthy Filipina Writers and Their Must-Read Works
Plus, local books to buy to add to your shelf.
(SPOT.ph) When it comes to women writers in the Philippines, what immediately comes to mind are the likes of novelist Lualhati Bautista, poet Benilda Santos, fictionist Gilda Cordero-Fernando, and more. But Filipinas who have wielded the power of the pen continue to grow with names coming from all over the Philippines (and abroad), specializing in various genres, writing in English and a number of Philippine languages, and across generations. This is by no means a comprehensive list; but if you’re looking to beef up your mini-library at home, here’s a good place to start.
Add these Filipina writers to your must-read list:
Emiliana Kampilan would often attend book and comics conventions wearing a bayong on her head. Her first comic book, Mga Sayaw ng Dagat at Lupa, which is a collection of four graphic stories, was published by Adarna House in 2017. The book's byline says “Created by Emiliana Kampilan and the Filipino People,” which is a reflection of the author's aim to tell the story of the Filipino people: a retelling of our origin story with Tungkong Langit and Laon Sina, the drifting apart of two friends, an us-against-the-world narrative of a gay couple, and two women supporting each other in a relationship against a politically chaotic society.
Dead Balagtas (P550) is available through Adarna House on Shopee.
Filipino-American author Elaine Castillo was born and raised in California, and very much in touch with her Filipino lineage as a second-generation immigrant. Her debut novel America Is Not the Heart (Penguin Books, 2019)—a nod to Carlos Bulosan’s America Is in the Heart—looks into this struggle of one family trying to balance the promise of the American dream but still held back by their history. In a previous interview with SPOT.ph, she said that it's about "former queer communist insurgent turned undocumented immigrant who moves to California and falls in love, then grows the hell up."
Software engineer Brigitte Bautista launched her debut novel Don’t Tell My Mother in 2017 after participating in Anvil Publishing's workshop on new-adult fiction under the Spark Books imprint. The lesbian narrative follows 19-year-old Sam who is raised by an overly zealous mother in a conservative Christian neighborhood. Her second novel You, Me, U.S. (2019) has a friends-to-lovers romance trope between best friends Jo and Liza.
Two-time Palanca winner Eliza Victoria is a poet, fictionist, and playwright. She has authored several books, including Dwellers (Visprint, 2014), which won Best Novel in English at the 34th National Book Awards; Wounded Little Gods (Visprint, 2016); graphic novel After Lambana (Visprint, 2016), which was created in collaboration with artist Mervin Malonzo), and science fiction Nightfall (Visprint, 2018). Her one-act play, Marte, was staged at the Cultural Center of the Philippines' Virgin Labfest in 2016.
Eliza Victoria’s works are available as e-books and paperbacks through her website.
Katrina Stuart Santiago
Essayist Katrina Stuart Santiago has written art, theater, and movie reviews for various publications. Her first book of creative nonfiction, Of Love And Other Lemons, was self-published in 2012, then reprinted in 2020 under the small press Everything's Fine. The collection of essays revolves around "being raised a girl in Manila, feminist in the academe, woman struggling with/in the silences and noise of nation every day," according to Everything's Fine's website.
Of Love and Other Lemons (P350) is available on Everything’s Fine’s website.
Louise O. Lopez
Louise O. Lopez's first book of poetry, Lungsod-Lungsuran, was launched by Librong LIRA in 2020. Poet and novelist Gen Asenjo describes her works: "May pamilyaridad man ang kanyang anyo sa istilo ng pagtula ngayon ng mga milenyal, may sarili siyang boses dahil na rin sa gagap niya ang wika at may sinseridad sa laman—hindi lang basta nagpapakitang-gilas o lutang." The Caviteño writer is an active member of Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo, a group of Filipino poets founded in 1985. Lungsod-Lungsuran is the seventh poetry book released by the organization's publishing arm.
Kristine Ong Muslim
Kristine Ong Muslim, a writer from Maguinandao, is the author of nine books, including short stories collections of the speculative genre like Age of Blight (Unnamed Press, 2016) and The Drone Outside (Eibonvale Press, 2017), and poetry collections Lifeboat (UST Publishing House, 2015) and Black Arcadia (UP Press, 2017). Her works have been widely anthologized, while others have been translated into French, Czech, and Bulgrian for publishing in international journals and magazines.
Krisine Ong Muslim’s works are available through her website.
Almayrah Abbas Tiburon
In Salamin At Iba Pang Panglaw (Isang Balangay Media Productions, 2018), Almayrah Abbas Tiburon imparts her experiences as a woman in Marawi through a collection of short stories. She writes in her foreword: "Layunin na lalong ipakilala ang tribong Meranaw sa Pilipinas na may sariling persepsyon at paningin sa iba’t ibang bagay na naaayon sa sariling paniniwala at kultura. Ibig kong ipakilala ang aming lahi na isa sa nagpapayaman sa kulturang Filipino." One of her works is part of DANAS: Mga Pag-Aakda ng mga Babae Ngayon (Gantala Press, 2017), which is edited by Faye Cura and Janina Dimaranan.
Salamin At Iba Pang Panglaw (P595) is available through Balangay Books.
Jhoanna Lynn B. Cruz
Jhoanna Lynn B. Cruz, professor of literature and creative writing at the University of the Philippines Mindanao, published her first book Women Loving: Stories and a Play in 2010 under Anvil Publishing. It is regarded as one of the early lesbian-themed works in the country. Her latest book, a memoir about starting her life in Davao City titled Abi Nako, Or So I Thought, is published by UP Press in 2020.
Abi Nako, Or So I Thought (P383) is available through UP Press on Shopee.
Stefani J. Alvarez
Stefani J. Alvarez specializes in flash fiction in the Filipino language. She won the Best Book of Non-Fiction Prose in Filipino at the National Book Award for her first book Ang Autobiografia ng Ibang Lady Gaga (Visprint, 2015) and the Best Book of Short Fiction for her 2019 work Kagay-an, At Isang Pag-Ibig Sa Panahon ng All-Out War (Psicom-Literati, 2019). Currently based in Saudi Arabia, she edited Saanman: Mga Kuwento Mula Sa Biyahe, Bagahe at Balikbayan Box, which is an anthology of short fiction written by fellow Filipinos living and working abroad.
Kagay-an, At Isang Pag-Ibig Sa Panahon ng All-Out War (P150) is available through PSICOM on Shopee.
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