For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

Celebrating Philippines: A Short Form List

Celebrating Philippines

You give up your country's history by choosing to live in another

— from Paulino Lim's “Homecoming”

Some of our favorite stories by Filipino writers.

Reading through the short stories, particularly the more significant ones, is a tremendous experience one will not soon forget. A people that can produce such volume and quality of writing deserves to be survive as a free and independent nation and to grow as a self-respecting, peace-loving, law-abiding member of the intellectual community dedicated to the pursuit of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms.

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As most of us know, Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the Philippines nearly two weeks ago. Over three million people have been displaced with a death toll climbing toward 4,000. We encourage our readers to visit such sites as Oxfam.org, Doctorswithoutborders.org, or your preferred charity to see how you can help.

Selected Stories

Monstress
Excerpt

In its first week in release, Squid Children played in just one theater in all of Manila, the midnight show at the Primero. “A place for peasants and whores,” the president said, tearing the poster in half, “and is it true they use a bedsheet for a screen?” Then, speaking in Tagalog, he fired us.

From CocoLoco we walked home, and when we passed the Oasis, one of the English-only movie theaters that had been sprouting up all over Manila, Checkers threw a stone at Doris Day’s face: Send Me No Flowers was playing, and above the box office Doris Day and Rock Hudson traded sexy glances and knowing smiles. “Their fault!” he said, and I understood what he meant: imported Hollywood romance was what Manila moviegoers were paying to see, and Checkers’ low-budget horror could no longer compete. “All that overacting, that corny shit!” But here was the truth: those were the movies I longed for Checkers to make, where men fall in love with women and stay there, and tearful partings are only preludes to tearful reunions. Real life—that’s what I wanted to play, but my own roles were Bat-Winged Pygmy Queen, Werewolf Girl, Two-Headed Bride of Two-Headed Dracula, Squid Monster—all those monstrous girls Checkers dreamed up just for me.

We read it in Monstress.

Originally published in The Atlantic: June 2003.

Homecoming
Excerpt

“What if the past reminds you of oppression?” I ventured an opinion.

“The more reason you should not forget, why you should not change the old Spanish and American place names to those of Filipinos.”

“I think you're talking about a different kind of memory. And it's not history or tradition.”

My brother looked at me, surprised. “What do you mean?”

“You are locked in your own nostalgia of what Azcarraga meant for you, a street where you searched for books when you were a student here. It's a special kind of memory, but very personal and distorted. A place name is a tradition, something that continues into the present, like a town fiesta. Tradition is memory kept alive. Nostalgia is frozen in time.”

My brother smiled. “Is that what you teach your high school students?”

“No, Brother, I teach them English.”

Stet
Excerpt

“So that’s where he got his knack for writing heds.”

“He gives good hed.”

“Funny guys. Thirty minutes. How we looking?”

“Benben fun. You read that proof?”

“Yeah. You missed T’s. Sovereignists should be sovereigntists. And kern out that orphan. Oh, and policy from on high...”

“Frickin’ Alberta.”

“... says we change ‘militants’ to ‘terrorists’.”

“Terrorists? They were there first.”

“Policy.”

“‘Ow ’bout I change ‘board members’ to ‘cunts’?”

Full story online.

Morning in Nagrebcan
Excerpt

Ambo rose to his feet. He looked longingly at the black-spotted puppy in Baldo's arms. Suddently he bent down and tried to snatch the puppy away. But Baldo sent him sprawling in the dust with a deft push. Ambo did not cry. He came up with a fistful of sand which he flung in his brother's face. But as he started to run away, Baldo thrust out his leg and tripped him. in complete silence, Ambo slowly got up from the dust, getting to his feet with both hands full of sand which again he cast at his older brother. Baldo put down the puppy and leaped upon Ambo.

Seeing the black-spotted puppy waddling away, Ambo turned around and made a dive for it. Baldo saw his intention in time and both fell on the puppy which began to howl loudly, struggling to get away. Baldo cursed Ambo and screamed at him as they grappled and rolled in the sand. Ambo kicked and bit and scratched without a sound. He got hold of Baldo's ear and hair and tugged with all his might. They rolled over and over and then Baldo was sitting on Ambo's back, pommeling him with his fists. He accompanied every blow with a curse. “I hope you die, you little demon,” he said between sobs, for he was crying and he could see. Ambo wriggled and struggled and tried to bite Baldo's legs. Failing, he buried his face in the sand and howled lustily.

We read it in Philippines Free Press.

Full story online.

Little People
Excerpt

In the classroom, I chose the seat I felt was the most haunted, the one farthest away from the teacher's table. Nobody wanted to sit near me. Behind me was a picture of the president. Without the company of my classmates, I expected elves to make their presence felt. So I waited.

By the third month in class, it happened. We had a very difficult math exam. Our teacher left us and went to gossip outside and all around me my classmates were openly copying each other's work. I looked at their papers from my seat, hoping that their scribbles would mean something to me but the answers to the blasted long divisions eluded me. I looked at the ceiling, trying to see if my brain would work better if my head was tilted a certain angle. It did not. I looked to my right, nothing there. And finally, I looked down and saw this tiny little elf, smaller than Prax by as much as six inches, sitting on the bag in front of me tap-tapping his foot impatiently.

“What took you so long to notice? I've been here for hours!” he said.

We read it in Philippines Free Press.

Full story online.