Cultural Notes
HINDSIGHT - F. Sionil Jose (The Philippine Star) - February 24, 2020 - 12:00am

What to See 

On view at the National Museum till March 15 is Quadricula (Hocus II) a collection of paintings by Guy Custodio, presented by Saul Hofilena Jr., and curated by Gemma Cruz Araneta.

All these paintings are new but as executed by Custodio with the guidance of Hofilena, they have the patina of age and the style and manner of the period.

Hofilena, an authority on international law, is basically an historian who had done extensive work on our Spanish past. His book, Behind the Shelves, highlights aspect of our history that have not been left out or ignored.

Guy Custodio executed these paintings in the manner that they were done by Filipino masters during the Spanish era.

Guy Custodio is a graduate of the Los Angeles Art College. He had worked on the restoration of religious Spanish art in Barcelona and perfected his art in Spain. He held several exhibitions in Manila;  this first Hocus I at the National Museum was very successful.

Rama Hari, the musical is scheduled for a return performance at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Creatively choreographed, it is a first rate production illustrating our superior talents. But as based on the Hindu epic, the Ramayana, it is not meaningful to us. There is so much Philippine material that can be the subject of artistic creativity, our own epics, our history. Let us elaborate Filipinas first.

On this, the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Cultural Center, a lot of hossanahs is being heaped on Imelda; for sure, she initiated the building of the center. But we must never forget, that it was OUR Money which built it.

What to Read

Nandy Pacheco: The Man Behind Gunless Society by Reynaldo Pacheco

Central Book Supply

A few decades back, Pacheco launched his campaign, The Gunless Society. From the start it appeared like a lost cause in a country with a gun culture. Nandy, a journalist correctly observed that countries where gun ownership is limited to the police, violent crimes are minimal. Gun control was possible through an executive order but that order was soon abandoned. If only because Nandy tried and is still vainly trying, he deserves attention and gratitude.

Voyager and Other Fictions: The Collected Stories by Jose Dalisay

Anvil Publishing, Inc.

This is the nth book by the former head of the University of the Philippines Writing Center, cultural columnist and biographer of distinguished Filipinos. These stories are deeply probing expositions of contemporary Filipinos as they strive for survival. I will nominate Jose Dalisay for the National Artist Award.

Cursed and other Stories by Noelle de Jesus

Penguin Books

This brilliant collection of short fiction by Noelle de Jesus labels her as one of our most promising fictionist today. Like most introductory work by young writers, the stories are very personal, tender and poignant. I look forward to a longer work, a novel I hope, written with the same youthful zest and at the same time plumbing the depths of the anxieties of young Filipinos.

Happily Ever Ek-ek: Poems by Paolo Manalo

Gacha Press

Manalo is a literature professor at the University of the Philippines. He was also literary editor of a major weekly magazine but above all he is known for his innovations in poetry and he has done so much to make the Filipino poem understandable and readable without losing its essence and musicality. Manolo’s poetry is defined by its freshness and originality, its mix with the vernacular. 

More and more writers are getting published and translated in the United States, among them, Danton Remoto’s Riverrun. The American edition will be issued by Penguin. Danton, is also a sometime columnist and a creative writing and literature teacher. He already has a wider audience in Southeast Asia.

Patron Saints of Nothing: A Novel by Randy Ribay

Kokila, an imprint of Penguin Random House

This new novel which is set in the Philippines written with flair and understanding of Filipino idioms. It is a sharp commentary of current events particularly the drug problem, Ribay was born in the Philippines. He teaches English the San Francisco area.

Good Dog: A Novel by Mabek Kawsek

Anvil Publishing, Inc.

Mabek Kawsek belongs to the new generation of Filipino-Chinese writers immersed in both Chinese and Filipino cultures. This is her second book of fiction, her first being a story collection called, Afraid to be Chinese. Good Dog is breath of fresh air, widening the window to a life and culture about which we know so little. Mabek writes with clarity and elegance reminiscent of the work of fellow Chinoy, Charlson Ong. 

Confessions of an Ex-Jesuit by Ibarra M. Gonzalez

San Anselmo Press

This is a very personal collection of essays that traces the author’s journey to self realization as well as the unfolding of his faith. The key to that revelation, Ibarra suggests, is to be engaged with humanity itself.

Women Talk: Answers to Common Pregnancy and GYN Questions 

by Alice M. Sun-Cua

UST Publishing House

Alice, who is a medical doctor is also an accomplished poet and essayist. This collection of essays illustrates her other engagement; it is addressed to women; she answers questions about pregnancy and gynecology. It is informative and revealing and should be read not only by women but by men so they will get to understand why women are what they are, as wives, as mothers and most important – lifelong partners. I recommend it.

Rampage: MacArthur, Yamashita and the Battle of Manila by James M. Scott

W. W. Norton Company

This is a much broader description of how Manila was ravaged by the Japanese in February 1945. James Scott had researched widely for this book and he presents more details that were not written about earlier. The narrative is chilling. It also raises many questions about why Manila was destroyed, and why the Japanese behaved as they did. A must reading for all Filipinos who want to know more about the Japanese Occupation.

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