Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Culture, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests

Friday, December 6, 2013

"A Footnote to Youth" by Jose Garcia Villa. (1933) - A National Artistof the Philippines

"But he was helpless. He could not do anything. Youth must triumph… now. Love must triumph… now. Afterwards… it will be life.
As long ago Youth and Love did triumph for Dodong… and then Life."  From "Footnote to Youth"

Interest in pre-WW II short stories by authors from the Philippines is very high.  The most viewed of nearly 2000 posts on The Reading Life are about such stories.  The stories are a delight to read and help keep alive memories of a way of life most now know little about.  They are also a great resource for anyone interested in learning more about Filipino history.  Jose Villa lived for sixty- seven of his eighty-nine years in the United States but he always maintained his Filipino citizenship and his work focused on life in the Phillipines. In 1973 he was named A National Artist of the Phillipines, the countries highest literary award given for a lifetime of great achievement.  

"A Footnote to Youth" is a very wise deeply felt work of great sadness set in rural Philippines in the 1930s.   The truth contained it would be acknowledged by everyone from Yiddish masters, to Chaucer and Cervantes and a host of Irish writers. 

As the story opens a young man of seventeen is trying to work up the nerve to ask his father for permission to marry his sweet heart.   He tells his father he is a man now and can marry if he wishes but he is giving his father the respect of asking him.  The young man cannot stop thinking about how beautiful his love is and he is determined to marry even though his father tells him he is too young.  The story is replete with beautiful images of rural life, especially of the beloved carabao.  

Many years are covered in the five pages of "Footnote to Youth".  Years have gone by and the once beautiful girl has lost all her looks from hard work and too many children.  There is nothing in the life of the no longer young man but working in the fields.  He has become his father.  When his seventeen year old son asks for permission to marry, declaring his love for his sweetheart you can feel the pain in the silence of the father.

Villa was born on August 5, 1908, in Manila's Singalong district. His parents were Simeon Villa (a personal physician of Emilio Aguinaldo, the founding President of the First Philippine Republic) and Guia Garcia (a wealthy landowner).He graduated from University of the Philippines Integrated School|University of the Philippines High School in 1925. Villa enrolled on a pre Medical school medicine course in University of the Philippines UP, but then switched to pre Law school|law. However, he realized that his true passion was in the arts. Villa first tried painting, but then turned into creative writing after reading Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson.

 In 1929 he published Man Songs, a series of erotic poems, which the administrators in UP found too bold and was even fined Philippine peso for obscenity by the Manila Court of First Instance. In that same year, Villa won Best Story of the Year from Philippine Free Press magazine for Mir-I-Nisa. He also received P1,000,000 prize money, which he used to migrate for the United States.

He enrolled at the University of New Mexico, wherein he was one of the founders of Clay, a mimeograph literary magazine.He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, and pursued post-graduate work at Columbia University.Villa had gradually caught the attention of the country's literary circles, one of the few Asians to do so at that time.

After the publication of Footnote to Youth in 1933, Villa switched from writing prose to poetry, and published only a handful of works until 1942. 

Villa worked as an associate editor for New Directions Publishing in New York City between 1949 to 1951, and then became director of poetry workshop at City College of New York from 1952 to 1960. He then left the literary scene and concentrated on teaching, first lecturing in The New School|The New School for Social Research from 1964 to 1973, as well as conducting poetry workshops in his apartment. Villa was also a cultural attaché to the Philippine Mission to the United Nations from 1952 to 1963, and an adviser on cultural affairs to the President of the Philippines beginning 1968.

  On February 5, 1997, at the age of 88, Jose was found on a coma in his New York apartment and was rushed to St. Vincent Hospital in the Greenwich area. His death two days later was attributed to "cerebral stroke and multilobar pneumonia". 


Personal In 1946 Villa married Rosemarie Lamb, with whom he has two sons, Randy and Lance. They divorced ten years later. He also has three grandchildren.

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