The Pile of 2015

Every year, new books by old and new authors of Filipino heritage are published, and one of the perks of running a magazine is that we get handed or mailed either review copies or copies of the actual books. They come with the tacit hope that they will get their day in the sun in the pages of Positively Filipino. We are more than happy to oblige; we are all book lovers here and reviews are always welcome. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we can’t seem to get enough writers to review the new books that arrive on our desks. We are in fact still waiting for some long-promised reviews (you know who you are!) but the moment we get them, we will quickly post. We categorically state that this publication will always lend support to authors of Filipino heritage, as best as we can. Of course, the caveat is, the book should be good enough to deserve a boost.

Here then in no particular order are the books – all copyright 2015 – that are piled on my desk. (Full disclosure: two of them I had something to do with before they were published).

The Aquino Legacy: An Enduring Narrative by Elfren Sicangco Cruz and Neni Sta. Romana Cruz (Imprint Publishing, Makati), 300 p.

The newest of the lot, having just been launched in Manila, this book was written for the Millennial Generation so they will know Ninoy and Cory beyond just being the parents of the current president and Kris, or the faces in the P500 bill. Chapters include “the Road to EDSA,” “Remembering Ninoy,” “The Cory Years,” “Pnoy’s Battles,” “The Aquino Legacy,” “The Aquino Girls,” “Up Close and Personal,” and “Some of the President’s Me.” A compelling read for those who want to remember and a necessary reference for those who need to know.

Available at Fully Booked in Manila

Statesman and Survivor: 125 Timeless and Inspirational Presidential Quotes by Elpidio Quirino, 4th President of the Philippines. Elpidio Pineda Quirino, Elizabeth Ann B. Quirino and Constante G. Quirino, editors (Besa-Quirino LLC and The President Elpidio Quirino Foundation), 198 p.

Elpidio Quirino was Philippine president when the country was still recovering from the devastation of WWII, from 1948-1953. Most Filipinos living today no longer remember him, thus the Quirino heirs put together this collection of his own words and historical photos to re-introduce this teacher-turned- statesman to a country seeking real heroes.

Available here:


Brothers: the Untold Story of the Philippine Military Academy “Matatag” Class of 1971 by Rolando C. Malinis, 451 p.

I edited this book so I’m biased, but take my word for it, it offers a fascinating and comprehensive coverage of what it means to spend four years in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). The Class of ’71 is notorious or famous, depending on which side of history you’re on. Some of its well-known members initiated the military rebellion that led to the EDSA People Power Revolt of 1986; many of them staged failed coups against the Cory Aquino administration. This checkered history doesn’t take away from the outstanding service many of the class’ quieter members have rendered to the country.

The first edition of this book is sold out, unfortunately.

Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan (Soho Press, New York).

Hailed as “the first Filipino crime novel,” this book has outstanding credentials: winner of the Philippine National Book Award, the Carlos Palanca Memorial Award and the Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award. Described as “an incredible emotional force,” “well-paced,” “gripping” and “artful,” this first novel has two Catholic priests as the main protagonists seeking a serial killer in Manila’s Payatas dump site. Amazon describes it as “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.”

Available here:

Philippine Proverbs collected by Neni Sta. Romana-Cruz (Tahanan Books, Manila), 93 p.

A handy reference when one is at a loss for words when trying to convey traditional wisdom to young ‘uns. What makes this tiny book delightful is that it draws proverbs from various Philippine languages and dialects, and translates them into English. Thus we get a collection of proverbs from the Ivatan, Ilokano, Cebuano, Bohulano, Aklanon, Bikol, Pangasinense, Manobo, Chavacano, Palawano and of course, Tagalog, among others.

Available here:

#30 Collantes Street by Lisa Suguitan Melnick (Carayan Press, San Francisco, CA), 95 p.

The author, a third-generation Filipino American, journeys to her grandfather’s homeland for the first time and discovers not only a nation that can only be described as a “feast for the senses” but also the unexpected gift of a renewed psychic bond with her late mother, who was never able to visit the country where her father came from. A little book with a lot of heart. Another one I helped shepherd to publication and proud of it.

Available here:

Passport to Creativity: Exploring the World with a Watercolor Journal by Jojo Sabalvaro-Tan, 80 p.

A collection of sketches in watercolor, some of which have been published earlier in this magazine. The author is obviously a well-traveled person who, unlike most of us, prefers to remember the places she’s been to not through words or photographs but through drawings. This book is privately published with very limited circulation so I’m lucky to have been one of the recipients of a copy.

Supreme Ambitions by David Lat (ABA Publishing), 284 p.

Described as “juicy” novel about the world that few people know about – the judicial community. The author is founder and managing editor of Above the Law, an acclaimed legal website that gathers an excess of 1 million unique visitors monthly. This book has already been reviewed by Positively Filipino Correspondent, Anthony Maddela. Amazon lists it as a 2014 publication but the copy we got is copyright 2015.

Anthony Maddela's review:

Book website:

Judy Ann’s Kitchen by Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo (Anvil Publishing, 169 p).

A pretty cookbook, some recipes of which we have already posted in our Happy Home Cook section. The author, a popular movie star, shares not only recipes of dishes, desserts and drinks she makes for her family, but also provides pages for the user’s doodles and notes. Quite thoughtful and inspiring with beautiful pictures that propels the reader to head to the kitchen and cook up a storm.

Available here:

Kuwento: Lost Things, An Anthology of New Philippine Myths by Rachelle Cruz and Melissa Sipin, editors. (Carayan Press, 224 p).

A fascinating collection of stories and poems from a new generation of Filipino and Filipino American writers, poets and visual artists interpreting the many facets of Philippine mythology. The book includes 44 pieces from high-powered contributors: Dean Francis Alfar, Nikki Alfar, Noel Alumit, Anna Alves, Paolo de la Fuente, Raymond Falgui, M. Evelina Galang, Isabel Garcia-Gonzalez, Almira Astudilo Gilles, G. Justin Hulog, Edwin Agustín Lozada, Veronica Montes, Paul Ocampo, Alex G. Paman, Zosimo Quibilan, Catherine Torres, Elaine Castillo, Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor, Melissa R. Sipin, Hari Alluri, David Maduli, Hossanah Asuncion, Rachelle Cruz, Oliver de la Paz, Sarah Gambito, Vince Gotera, Joseph Legaspi, Noel Mariano, Aser Peleg, Barbara Jane Reyes, Mg Roberts, Brian Ascalon Roley, Janice Sapigao, Aimee Suzara, Eileen Tabios, and Nick Carbó. For visual art: Trinidad Niki Escobar, Rachel Sipin Espanola, and Eliseo Art Silva.

I still have to get a handle on what spec fic (speculative fiction) is about but this book, I was told, is a good introduction to this genre that is the current rage among young artists and writers.

Available here:

In the Country: Stories by Mia Alvar (Alfred A. Knopf, 349 p.)

Hailed by the New York Times as one of the best books of 2015, this collection of nine incredibly well-written and meticulously researched stories of Filipino immigrants, OFWs and exiles in such places as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the US. Also chosen by Amazon as the best book for June 2015, this debut creation of Alvar deserves all the superlatives used by various quarters to describe it. Definitely a must-read for Filipinos all over the world and for lovers of good literature.

Available here:

Gemma Nemenzo

Editor, Positively Filipino