Getting ‘Lucky’
KRIPOTKIN - Alfred A. Yuson (The Philippine Star) - December 6, 2015 - 9:00am

Months ago, Eric Tinsay Valles, Filipino poet-professor based in Singapore, sent me the draft of an anthology he was co-editing for publication there.

Now I hear that the book Get Lucky: An Anthology of Philippine and Singapore Writings, sold more than 100 copies on the last weekend of the 2016 Singapore Writers Festival conducted in early November, and wound up as one of the three bestsellers during that fest.

It was launched to a full house at The Arts House at the Old Parliament on Nov. 7 in a convivial gathering of Filipinos and Singaporeans alike. Blurbs by Dr. Gémino H. Abad, Singaporean poet/critic Gwee Li Sui and bestselling Singaporean children’s author Adeline Foo also helped promote the anthology.

The anthology’s contributors and their supporters at the launch in Singapore’s The Arts House

Here’s the one I sent: 

“This commendable anthology of thematic poetry, short fiction, personal essays and visual art does indeed manifest a fusion of two cultures: Singaporean and Filipino, the latter as it is continually imbedded in a host city-state that welcomes its contributions.

“Transporting this culture of appreciation to ‘an environment that brings the best out of the Filipino’ equates to good fortune. The luck here is not instant but hard-won, extending beyond the plazas of commerce and opportunity.  

“It includes ‘the response of Singaporean writers to their fellowship with Filipinos’ — surely equally as warm, as evidenced by their own contributions to this book.

“The camaraderie has engendered fine literature, as a testament to the shared fortune of creativity. As brothers and sisters, we all make our own luck, together. Ultimately it is a loving one that shares the good joss and the good word.”

Eric had taken some inspiration from an anthology that came out in 2002: Love Gathers All: The Philippines-Singapore Anthology of Love Poems, edited by myself together with RayVi Sunico, Alvin Pang and Aaron Lee, co-published by Anvil Publishing, Inc. for the Manila copies and Ethos Books of Singapore for the distribution there.

Ethos Books figures anew as publisher of Get Lucky, this time a landmark collection of writings, not just poetry, but in three genres and featuring 30 contributors. Assembled are twenty-two poems, nine personal essays, and four short stories.

“We Filipinos have a wealth of stories to tell, and as our community in Singapore has grown bigger, there has been a larger, deeper pool of experiences to tap and share through prose and poetry,” says Migs Bravo-Dutt, the book’s co-editor together with Manuelita Contreras and Valle.

Several established Singaporean writers, including literary pioneers Edwin Thumboo and Anne Lee Tzu Pheng, contributed to the book in response to their fellowship with Filipinos.

“We hope that through such a response, we can strengthen our camaraderie with our Singaporean counterparts as we seek to foster a fellowship in mutual trust with them through this collection,” says Contreras.

Valles adds that the book has received a warm welcome from both the Filipino and Singapore communities. He writes: “The fact that Get Lucky is supported by the National Arts Council of Singapore is testament to the importance of this book, which in the words of Singaporean poet and critic Gwee Li Sui, is a long overdue collection.”

Ethos Books publisher Fong Hoe Fang says he was thrilled to publish Get Lucky because the company has always supported the establishment of platforms for voices that reflect the ethos of our times. “And the writers in Get Lucky are obviously amongst the most articulate of their generation in a country far from their home of origin,” he adds.

The foreword is written by Philippine Ambassador to Singapore Antonio Morales, who writes:

“The experiences that illustrate the life of typical overseas Filipinos are best illuminated in Singapore. Small in size, the city-state packs a punch, not just in terms of raw economic power but also in the diversity of its people, traditions and cultures — an environment that brings the best out of the Filipino.

“In Get Lucky: An Anthology, a group of Filipinos came together to work on an anthology of everything Filipino in Singapore, exploring and celebrating the themes of family, faith, friendship, love, and of course, the place that cuts across the lives of Filipinos in Singapore: Lucky Plaza.

“… The authors have all excelled in their own individual careers, and Get Lucky: An Anthology is the first time they have pooled their talents together and collaborated to work on something close to their hearts—a day in the life of Filipinos in Singapore.

“To the authors, the anthology is also a way of reinforcing the strong relationships between Filipinos and their Singaporean counterparts, which have been celebrated in visual arts, with exchanges during many art festivals and exhibits, but not much in terms of literary exchange, despite the presence of many established Filipino authors and writers in Singappsore.        

“… I have no doubt that this will be a good read and that this is more than just a collection of literary pieces. Hopefully, this will lead to an enlightened view of the life of Filipinos in Singapore and of how locals perceive them and their presence in the city-state.”

Chapter one bears the theme of “Distance and Separation,” and starts off with the personal essay titled “Present” by Robin Hemley, who may be said to be an “old Philippine hand” — having authored a definitive book on the Tasaday, which the BBC based a documentary on. He is married to a Filipina and has led contingents of non-fiction writing students from Iowa in immersing themselves in Dumaguete and Cebu, joining our own literary workshops. Robin has since become a visiting professor at the Yale-NUS (National University of Singapore).

Shoring up this first chapter are the title poem “Get Lucky” by Eric Tinsay Valles, “Every Sunday” by Neal Imperial who has served in our Philippine embassy there, and other poems: “Payday (Everyone’s Story)” by Pamela “Wildheart” Pilapil, “Lucky Plaza Novena” by Nathaniel Chua, “18:30 run:way” by Melvin Sico, and “}}” by Patricia Karunungan. Then there’s short fiction by Manuelita Contreras-Cabrera (“Faded Colors”) and Palanca awardee Catherine Torres “Blown Glass.” Another personal essay, “Fanfare Across the Sea” by Minnie Lau, bookends this first chapter.

Chapter two is theme-billed as “Places We Remember,” with poetry by Rodrigo V. Dela Peña (“Jose Rizal at the Singapore Botanics” and “The Merlion Speaks”), Monica Walet           (“Empty Road”), Ateneo alumna Catherine Candano (“Imaginary Landscape to Novena”), and Migs C Bravo-Dutt (“Yellow” and “Friday Morning”). Personal essays by Denise Simbol (“Sungei Road”), Edward Roa Vinluan (“Keretapi Tanah Melayu”) and Crispin Maslog (“Singapore with Love”) complete this chapter.

Featured as a welcome break from the text are center cartoons by Dengcoy Miel, Singapore’s most-awarded editorial cartoonist and author.

Heading chapter three which is titled “All We Need Is Love / Dahil Sa’Yo” is the essay “Inexplicable by Annabelle Fabia de Arroz, followed by poetry from our good old buddy Felix Cheong, a Singaporean poet-journalist-author married to a Filipina (“With You (For G)”), Pamela “Wildheart” Pilapil (“Fated in the Lion City”), Belen Esposo Repollo           (“Pusong Hapo”), and Myrna Airene Anrym (“Katulad ng Puno”) — with the last two translated to English by Valles. Short stories by Frederick Tan (“The Train Ride”) and Michael Ostigue (“#sepanx”) complete this chapter. Chapter four: “Friendship and Longing for Home” features the poetry of Singaporean authors Aaron Lee, another regular Philippine visitor (“The Long and Short of It”), Desmond Kon (“Her 13th Book of Poem” and “Waiting”), and the Lion City’s “Dean of Letters” Edwin Thumboo (“Banaue — For Frankie and Jose.”)

Personal essays by Chi Ching (“A Fusion of Two Cultures”), Noel Perdigon (“Filipino Touch”), and author-editor Noelle Q. de Jesus (“Something Simple”) complete the collection.

Incidentally, Prof. Thumboo was recently in Manila to deliver an address at the PEN Philippines’ annual convention. A longtime friend of our National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose, he’s expected to make a referral for Ethos Books to supply Solidaridad Bookstore with copies, together with those of other books by Singapore-based Pinoys such as Dengcoy Miel, Noelle de Jesus-Chua and Valles.

The editors intend to donate their royalties to a scholarship project of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association Singapore. Once Get Lucky enters its second print run (the first print run is for 1000 copies), the royalty percentage will increase.

*  *  *

The book is now available at major bookstores in Singapore and on For more information, contact: Mersole Mellejor, Consul, Cultural Section Singapore Philippine Embassy at

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