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Philippines Books

Some of what's on my bookshelf

Books are arranged in order of favorite and/or usefulness. You will notice that I enjoy reading and learning about Philippines culture and history. After more than eleven years in the Philippines, I have found this a fascinating country and people to try to understand and read about. There are not so many Filipino authors in the list because they tend to assume too much local knowledge and this section is more for overseas visitors.

Noli Me Tangere – José Rizal - translated by Ma. Soledad Lacson-Locsin

This is the only novel that I've read twice. First written in Spanish, it was the novel that precipitated the end of 350 years of Spanish rule. This novel is compulsory reading for all high school students but unfortunately, I have yet to meet a Filipino who feels comfortable in discussing the book philosophically. The baddies in the story are mainly catholic priests and that does not sit comfortably with this catholic nation. It is available in most large Filipino bookstores. At the age of twenty-six, Dr. Rizal published his first novel, Noli me Tangere (translates to "touch me not") in Europe in 1887, . The book was banned in the Philippines because of its criticism of the country's Spanish government and especially of the Roman Catholic clergy. Copies were smuggled into the Philippines and when Rizal returned after completing medical studies, he ran into trouble with the government and clergy. He was first exiled to Mindanao and was later arrested for "inciting rebellion" based largely on his writings. He was executed in Manila in 1896 at the age of 35.

"The Noli Me Tangere by Jose P. Rizal, national hero of the Philippines, is the novel with the greatest impact on Filipino political thinking in the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as the widest influence on contemporary fiction, drama, opera, dance and film. Its popularity was rooted in its reflection of the times in which it was written, and has continued because of the characters Rizal created, set in situations that still ring true today." - Inside cover

The Songs of Salanda and Other Stories of Sulu – H. A. Nimmo

Short stories by Anthropologist H. A. Nimmo based on research work undertaken in the 1960s with the Badjao people (sea gypsies) of Sulu, Southern Philippines. Both beautiful and

Wisdom from a Rainforest: The Spiritual Journey of an Anthropologist – Stuart A. Schlegel

In the 1960s, Schlegel went into a remote rainforest on the Philippine island of Mindanao as an anthropologist to do his dissertation. What he found was a group of people whose tolerant, gentle way of life would transform his own values and beliefs profoundly. Wisdom from a Rainforest is Schlegel's testament to his experience and to the Teduray people of Figel.

Playing with Water – James Hamilton-Paterson

This British author has spent many years living in the Philippines. "Playing with Water" is about his experiences of living for several years on a small, baron and remote island in the Philippines. Beautifully written and the perfect reading material for on a beach in a tropical paradise.

Ghosts of Manila – James Hamilton-Paterson

A novel set in the Marcos era, but "thinly fictionalized from real events" You might want to leave this one until near the end of your holiday. "Melancholy intelligence edged with sardonic wit flickers in this book over dark scenes caught with first rate reporter's eye for detail and drama. Along with informed disgust at the bloated antics of the rich and ruthless goes appalled compassion for the myriad unrecorded lives quashed and squandered by them. It is this that makes Ghosts of Manila not just brilliantly macabre but somberly humane." - Peter Kemp, The Sunday Times

America's Boy – James Hamilton-Paterson

Philippines history written from a perspective for which James Hamilton-Paterson has become famous. If you want to know more about the recent history of the Philippines you will love this book - well I did. "James Hamilton-Paterson has succeeded in transforming a dual biography of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos into something far grander, a vital history of our times, a meditation on colonialism in the modern world, particularly in in South East Asia, which is as readable as a good novel.... America's Boy is a stupendous work of history, biography, call it what you will. Its strength is that it defies categorisation and demands to be considered, first and foremost, as a work of literature." Tony Gould. The Spectator, Oct 10, 1998.

Muslim Rulers and Rebels – Thomas M. McKenna

A very impressive piece of work. Thomas McKenna has provided the first convincing explanation of a major insurgency that continued on its bloody course for nearly a quarter of a century. By placing the Philippine Muslim revolt in the frame of ethnonationalism, he opens the book, quite persuasively, to a global problem that is already troubling our transition beyond the Cold War into a post authoritarian age. "Alfred W. McCoy, Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"In this first ground-level account of the Muslim separatist rebellion in the Philippines, Thomas McKenna challenges prevailing anthropological analyses of nationalism as well as their underlying assumptions about the interplay of culture and power. He examines Muslim separatism against a background of more than four hundred years of political relations among indigenous Muslim rulers, their subjects, and external powers seeking the subjugation of Philippine Muslims. He also explores the motivations of the ordinary men and women who fight in armed separatist struggles and investigates the formation of nationalist identities. A skillful meld of historical detail and ethnographic research, Muslim Rulers and Rebels makes a compelling contribution to the study of protest, rebellion, and revolution worldwide."