A Reading Life Project
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Of the 1400 posts on my blog, the most read are those on short stories by authors from the Philippines. Nancy from A Simple Clockwork and I have been posting on these stories, mostly focusing on older stories, for some time now. We have provided lots of links where these stories can be read online. Taken together, they make up a great inadequately explored resource for students of post-colonial Asian literature. Most importantly, they are wonderful stories by real people writing about their heritage in honest heartfelt works.
The Manila Bulletin )
Sam Christie (his name seems to meant to bring two things to mind, "Sam" for Uncle Sam and "Christie" meaning a Christian) wants to see the famous rice terraces and he wants to purchase a small statue of an Ifugao God as a souvenir to take back to New England with him. Philip gets word his grandfather is very sick and he and Sam make the long bus trip to his home village. Jose does a great job of making us feel like we are along for the ride. I wonder what the roads from there to Manila were like fifty years ago!
Sam is fascinated by the rice terraces, overwhelmed by their beauty and awestruck at what went into building them over 2000 years ago. At first Philip seems a bit embarrassed for his friend to see where he came from. Philip is received coldly by his family, they regard him as a deserter to his heritage. We attend a festival held in their honor, we meet the aging and ill grandfather, we learn about how the live, see the foods they eat and get very good feel for the lives of the Ifugao people in this powerful story.
I do not want to tell the ending of this story as it so meaningful in multifarious ways.
"The God Stealer" by Francisco Sionil Jose should be read by anyone into post colonial Asian literature. It was originally written, as are all the author's works, in English. It shows a deep understanding of very real problems felt in ancient cultures all over the world. How do you keep the young people rooted in the culture when they can make a lot more money, and have seemingly a more exciting life, in a mega-city? This drama is being played out all over Asia. It does not take a genius to one day see the cultures of people like the Ifugao preserved only in vacation spots designed to give tourists photo ops. ((100 pesos for a picture, please with statues of their Gods, made in China, for sale.)
You can read "The God Stealer" here. If you have never read a short story by an author from the Philippines this is a good place to start. If you have been reading them for decades, then lend is your expertise, please.
Nancy at A Simple Clockwork has some very illuminating posts on the literary culture of the Philippines and is perhaps the only place to learn about the literature of Cebu.