Arts & CulturePress Release

Six authors who reveal necessary truths about the Philippines

MANILA, PHILIPPINES “To foretell the destiny of a nation, it is necessary to open the book that tells of her past.”

Such were the words of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. Although he died 127 years ago, his wisdom still rings true. With the recent celebration of Philippine Independence Day, it is important for Filipinos to look beyond the surface of their nation’s history and explore the complex truths that shaped their collective identity. Confronting these stark realities will lead to a more nuanced and grounded understanding of the past.

Read along as Fully Booked shines the spotlight on six remarkable Filipino authors who offer a unique perspective in exploring the past, ultimately circling back and resonating with our present.


Gina Apostol: “Truth is multi-faceted.”

Multi-awarded novelist Gina Apostol is known for her daring and innovative storytelling genius, interweaving history and fiction in a way that challenges perceptions of the past. Her novel, La Tercera, about a Filipina novelist in New York City investigating her ancestry, has been described by the New York Times as “profoundly rewarding, opening up a glorious new understanding of a country and a culture.” Through her characters, Gina invites readers to question the narratives they’ve been told and to consider the truth that exists in multiplicity, trapped within our history’s entangled web.

Besides La Tercera, Gina also wrote other encompassing novels: Insurrecto and Bibliolepsy.

Ambeth Ocampo: “History’s narratives can be rewritten.”

Books can transform the way we understand our history, and Ambeth Ocampo’s works are a testament to that. Ambeth is not your typical Filipino textbook historian and writer — he has this way of demystifying the past and presenting historical figures as human beings with flaws, complexities, and motivations, which makes for a refreshing experience for readers of all ages.

Flip through the pages of Looking Back, or grab a copy of Cabinet of Curiosities: Histories from Philippine Artifacts to understand what it means to examine traditional narratives and embrace forgotten stories.

Glenn Diaz: “Navigate through modern realities.”

In The Quiet Ones, there’s a scene where Scott, the protagonist, says he couldn’t take a decent photo in Manila, minus the tangle of wires. “But maybe that’s the point, ‘no? Our attempts at connection coalescing.”

Such a scene exposes Glenn’s ability to unravel gritty truths about the Filipino consciousness while seeing the poetry in it. Set against the canvas of Manila’s urban landscape, The Quiet Ones exposes the inequalities and injustices that pervade the lives of Filipinos. Through palpable imagery and dialogue, the Palanca and National Book Awardee delivers a searing critique of contemporary Philippine society as he explores the intricacies of class, politics, and identity. The end result is a vivid portrait of a society grappling with its past while inching toward an uncertain future.

After checking out The Quiet Ones, follow it up with Glenn’s other novel Yñiga, which features the story of Yñiga Calinauan and how she finds her way through the “forest of history” that has long haunted her family.

Danton Remoto: “Tell the stories of the marginalized in full color.”

Have you ever encountered a novel that reads like creative non-fiction, written like a memoir and brimming with poetry, prose pieces, or vignettes that flow like a river? That is how most people describe Riverrun by Danton Remoto.

This coming-of-age novel revolves around the life and loves of Danilo Cruz, a young gay man carving out his identity during the time of Martial Law. The novel is likely partly biographical, as Danton also grew up as a gay man in a conservative society. Undoubtedly, this has influenced his activism — he is Chairman Emeritus of Ang Ladlad, an LGBTQIA+ political party in the Philippines — and his efforts in amplifying the voices of the minority, challenging norms, and advocating for acceptance.

The multi-awarded author, who has worn many hats as a literature professor, essayist, columnist, reporter, and activist for over 30 years, was once described as “a stylist of the English language.” He has also translated five novels, including the great Lope K. Santos’ Banaag at Sikat (Radiance and Sunrise).

Marga Ortigas: “Seek the untold and walk with empathy.”

Marga Ortigas is a journalist first and foremost. She has traveled across five continents, reporting from the frontlines of armed conflict. She is also the editor of “I, Migrant,” an online platform that highlights the struggles and experiences of the Filipino diaspora and advocates for universal humanity despite differences.

That said, it is unsurprising that Marga would use her gifts to expose hard truths about human rights and social justice issues even in her novel, The House on Calle Sombra. In it, Marga holds a mirror to the Philippines’ turbulent history by basing the novel on meticulous research and investigative journalism. Published by Penguin Random House, Marga’s novel is described as “an ode to family, and a compelling exploration of how greed, love, and trauma are passed down through generations.”

Lope K. Santos: “Champion social justice.”

To reflect his patriotism, Lope K. Santos changed the first letter of his middle name from C to K. He was a nationalist to the bone—from his name, wardrobe, and even when it came to naming his three children (Luwalhati, Lakambini, Makaaraw). Naturally, he wanted to share this with the rest of the world, especially with Filipinos. This desire continues to shine brightly in Banaag at Sikat, his best-known work, even decades after his death.

A love story that unravels in the context of a political tale, the 1906 novel has been touted as the fountainhead of social realism in the Tagalog novel. The narrative centers on Delfin, a poor man enamored with Meni, a capitalist’s daughter. In Banaag at Sikat, we are treated to a glimpse of post-colonial Philippine society and the ills that continue to plague the underprivileged. Translated into English by Danton Remoto, a prolific writer himself, today’s generation of readers can expect to find inspiration to help change the world in this modern rendering.

Through their beautifully idiosyncratic stories, these authors embolden us to further inspect the narratives we’ve been taught, take in the richness of our history in all its grittiness and chaos, and embrace the lessons that come with it. As Lope K. Santos once said, “There can be no better or solemn way of celebrating Independence Day than rededicating ourselves and harnessing our energies towards positive nationalism.”

Check out some of the novels from these six brilliant authors at Fully Booked stores and online nationwide. Click here for more bookish news and recommendations.

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