Category Archives: Sanga sa Basang Lupa

Don’t be tricked into following the herd

Sometimes free means free. No strings attached. Here’s an early Christmas gift.

Fixional has made available my special trilogy of poems based on Krzystof Kieslowski’s Three Colours Trilogy of films.

While I’m at it, I’d like to thank the editors of the following websites and journals for publishing my work in the past. I have posted links to some of them previously.

Modern Poetry in Translation


Canopic Jar 


Black Friday Sales are being promoted extensively even here in South Africa. If you pause and think, it’s nothing but a way for shops and online retailers to offload old stock before the Christmas rush of new products to entice consumers. But really, they’re just material things you already have, perhaps newer versions with a few new bells and whistles. How soon after the feelgood rush of the purchase will you be made to crave for the next new iteration?

I don’t see the same when it comes to books, good books that aren’t designed to be replaced in a season. Or at least that’s the hope. So forgive my little sales pitch.

If you are outside of the Philippines, please consider ordering my new book, WINGS OF SMOKE, online via the following (or other decent retailers):

The Onslaught Press

The Book Depository


But if you are in Manila, you’re in luck as” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>UST Publishing House has a sale of all my books they’ve published. Get all of them at a great discount!



It took me this long to share the news of the release of my first (and perhaps last) short story collection in Filipino, SANGA SA BASANG LUPA. My Philippine publisher, UST Publishing House, has made the title available and announced it on 19 October 2016 on their Facebook post. I’m hoping a launch of sorts would follow, but times are difficult at the moment. My previous attempts to do a virtual launch for my recent poetry collection, A THOUSAND EYES, never materialized.

My own sister has warned me not to come home because of what’s been happening. Anyone can be killed and be declared a drug user or drug pusher. Anyone. Nearly 5,000 people have been killed since Duterte took to the presidency. That and the tight budget keep me from booking a flight back home. Home. That’s a tough word to say when you have your heart in too many places and official documents and procedures – aside from economics – bar you from moving freely among your loved ones. I include my paper children among my loved ones.

Sanga sa Basang Lupa took a long time to be born. If you read Filipino fiction, I hope you give this paper child of mine a chance. Apparently not many short story collections in Filipino get put out there these days. Mine took over 20 years to see the light. Please take care of this one, dear reader. Maraming salamat.


The tap was left running – or “Oh, I got featured on the Ploughshares blog!”

My country of birth just had major national elections. I wasn’t there to participate, to feel all the excitement, the dread, the many and varied hopes that gushed out of people I know and many I will never meet. So it feels almost selfish that I share this bit of personal news. Someone felt my work was worthy of being read and gave me some room to express myself.

I don’t really know what to say most times when asked highly personal questions. Nichole L. Reber threw some really tough ones and I hope I didn’t sound like a tap left running until the bucket overflowed. Please visit the Ploughshares blog and maybe try to leave a message here or there if you have any feedback – complaints, curses, blessings, or whatever reaction you may have.

Mostly I really just want to thank each reader who has given my work a chance. Maraming salalamat, sa inyong lahat. Nichole, I hope I didn’t disappoint with my long-winded answers.

EDIT… In the interview a particular poem was mentioned, “Ghosts of Sweaty Air,” which was originally published in GUD Magazine. The GUD website allows you to read the first few lines. The whole poem is in my book Alien to Any Skin. If you’re interested and nice (hahaha), then leave a note here, I’ll shoot the poem to you.


my favourite jeans cropped

Stubbornness and Wreckless Abandon

Two decades is a long time to be away from your own children. What if they were only made of paper, words on paper in a language you grew up speaking but now rarely use because no one else where you now live knows it? Would you still recognize them as your own? Would they seem as important and worth reading after all these years?

I am currently proofreading the text for my first book of short stories in Filipino, Sanga sa Basang Lupa, which is due for release later in the year. I had to stop for a while again. I remember the rough outline of each story, but I found myself getting all tense and fearful for the characters, or laughing with them at certain points of the narrative. Had they taken on a life of their own in all the time they had been in storage?

Would other readers feel the same way if and when they finally open the pages of the book and enter the worlds I had imagined? Will these stories even be given a chance by a single reviewer? A single reader?

I never thought of these at all when I was writing each story. If I had, none of them would be here now.

Stubbornness and wreckless abandon, I blame you, you twins of creation. And thank you. Now I have nothing but hope.

not real title

I just made up this design for this post and will not be used for the final book at all.

Kung Bubuuin, May Darating (haha… kung alam mo ang pinagmulan niyan, ngingiti o ngingiwi ka ba?)

Mahirap panatilihing buhay ang wika kung ikaw lamang ang tanging bumibigkas nito sa iyong kinalalagyan. Hinahagilap ng isip ang bawat hakbang ng salita, hindi madaling magtatakbo kung saan pumapanig-panig at kumakampay ang imahinasyon. Kaya nga dumadalang ang aking pagsusulat ng mga tula sa Filipino. Balak kong gisingin muli ito sa pamamagitan ng pagsasalin. Ang una ko sanang proyekto – idedeklara na kahit hindi tiyak kung mabibigyang-pansin agad – ay ang pagsasalin ng mga piling akda ko mula sa Inggles/Ingles (alin ba ang higit na popular na baybay?). Ito sana ang pamagat:

KaLaman at DayuHan: mga saling-sarili.

KaLaman at DayuHanNgayong taon ilalabas ang una kong aklat ng mga maikling kuwento (SANGA SA BASANG LUPA) sa wikang kinagisnan. Gayong matagal nang nailatag sa papel ang mga salitang naipon bilang mga kuwento, ngayon lamang sila sabay-sabay na hahakbang sa mas malawak na daigdig. Pangamba kong matindi ang kanilang kahihinatnan. Magiging mabuti kaya ang kanilang paglalakbay? Paano kaya sila tatanggapin ng mga mambabasa? Sino kaya ang aampon sa kanila? Ilulunsad sila kasabay ng aking ikapitong aklat ng mga tula (A THOUSAND EYES) sa mga susunod na buwan. Sana, o sana, pagbuksan sila ng pinto, o kahit man lamang ng bintana. Lagi, kakambal ng “sana” ang “pag-asa.”

(ROUGH TRANSLATION: I’m worried I am losing my ability to write in my mother tongue so I am embarking on translating my selected poems from English to Filipino, even as two new books are due to be launched this year – SANGA SA BASANG LUPA (my first collection of short stories in Filipino) and A THOUSAND EYES (my seventh book of poetry). I hope to have an online launch of both books in Manila and a launch of the poetry books in English in Cape Town – if all goes as planned (more “as hoped for”).

Mother Tongue in a Twist and some news

My country of birth is celebrating Buwan ng Wika, “Language Month,” but what it means really, I think, is the celebration of all Philippine languages. The focus seems to be more on Filipino, a language based largely on Tagalog. It is considered to be more flexible than Tagalog in making room for other languages.

I grew up with Tagalog/Filipino (Marikina is in Luzon, the home of Tagalog), Ilokano (my father is from “Marcos country” in the north), English (TV in the care of Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and Philippine English-dubbed Japanese anime like Voltes V and Mazinger Z), and Spanish (forced upon us during university at a time when students were calling for more options). I wonder if there is room for more in my silly little brain.

I posted the following announcement on Facebook and will attempt to translate it for non-Filipino readers. (somehow it sounds odd and alien in translation).


Magandang balita para sa Buwan ng Wika para sa mga kaibigan kong mambabasa ng mga akdang nasulat sa Filipino… tinanggap ng UST Publishing House ang aking manuskrito ng maiikling kuwento sa Filipino, SANGA SA BASANG LUPA AT IBA PANG KUWENTO. Hindi ko pa alam kung kailan ilalathala, ngunit sana ngayon pa lamang ay pag-isipan na ninyong bigyan ng lugar sa inyong aklatan (sarili man o pampamantasan… pambaranggay o parokya, at kung saan pa! sa opisina simulan kaya?). Samantala, sana tangkilikin din ninyo ang mga koleksyon ko ng mga tula sa Filipino na inilathala rin ng USTPH: ang naging finalist sa National Book Award na BAHA-BAHAGDANG KARUPUKAN at ang kasalukuyang nominado sa Filipino Readers Choice Awards na KALMOT NG PUSA SA TAGILIRAN. Ayan, kahit malayo ako ay may paraan pa ring makapiling – kahit man lamang sa mga salitang inilatag sa papel. Isang araw iyan na lamang ang malalabi sa akin. Di tulad ng ibang yumaong nilalang na paulit-ulit pang mapapanood na gumagalaw at nagpapatawa, humuhugot ng mga damdaming sinulid sa kaibuturan ng kalungkutan. Ano nga ba ang ating ihahabilin?


Good news for Buwan ng Wika for all my friends who read literary works in Filipino… UST Publishing House has accepted my short fiction manuscript in Filipino, BRANCH ON WET GROUND AND OTHER STORIES . There is still no publication date, but I’m hoping you’d begin thinking of making room for it in your library (your own or your academic institution’s… your community library or even through your church and wherever else! at your place of work maybe?). Meanwhile, I hope you try reading my poetry collections in Filipino, also published by UST Publishing House: BAHA-BAHAGDANG KARUPUKAN, shortlisted for the National Book  Award, and KALMOT NG PUSA SA TAGILIRAN which has been nominated at the ongoing Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards. And so despite the distance there might still be a way to bring us together – even if just through words on paper. One day only those willl be left of me. Not like others who are no longer with us yet we can still watch over and over, moving and making us laugh, drawing threads out of us from the pit of sadnes.What is it really that we leave behind?