The Learning curve

‘Tis the season for reading, giving

To complement last week’s list of award-winning books recently honored at the National Book Awards ceremonies, I am pleased to present more titles highly recommended by Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, an esteemed  writer and professor whose opinion I value. I am more than happy to be able to offer this bounty of books to a larger audience with her kind permission because it helps answer a question I am frequently asked: What locally published books would you recommend?

Pantoja-Hidalgo’s list, “27 Books to Give as Gifts This Christmas,” was originally posted on Facebook and features titles published from 2013 to 2017. Her more detailed list describes every book. Here it is, with specific genres to boot.


“All My Lonely Islands” by V.J. Campilan, novel, Anvil; “The Quiet Ones” by Glenn Diaz, novel, Ateneo; “Crimetime: Inspector S.J. Tuazon Case Files” by Maria M.L. Fres-Felix, short fiction, Anvil; “A Waiting Room Companion” by Sarge Lacuesta, creative nonfiction: essays/ memoir/literary journalism,  Ateneo; “Ang Nawawala” by Chuckberry Pascual, short fiction, Visprint.

“Friend Zones” edited by Cyan Abad-Jugo, YA short fiction, Ateneo; “Carnival of Hate” by Augusto Antonio Aguila, short fiction, UST; “Navel n. the central point of a place” by Rica Bolipata-Santos, creative nonfiction: essays/memoir, UST; “Troya: 12 Kuwento” by Joselito Delos Reyes, short fiction, Visprint; “Dear Distance” by Luis M. Katigbak, short fiction, Anvil; “Instructions on How to Disappear” by Gabriela Lee, short fiction, Visprint.


“What Things Mean” by Sophia Lee, novel/YA fiction, Scholastic (Singapore); “Looking for Polaris: a Memoir of Losing and Finding” by Dawn Laurente Marfil, creative nonfiction: memoir, UST; “Writing Naked” by Arnie Quibranza Mejia, creative nonfiction: memoir, UST; “Fictionary” by Jenny Ortuoste, short fiction, UST; “The Gullet: Dispatches of Philippine Food” by Clinton Palanca, creative nonfiction: essays/memoir, Anvil; “The Bohemian Rhapsody in Two Places” by Trixie Alano Raguyal, creative nonfiction: essays/memoir, UP.

“Mariposa Gang and Other Stories” by Catherine Torres, short fiction, UST; “Lait Pa More” by John Jack Wigley, creative nonfiction, UST; “Geeks Vs. Jocks” by Jessica Zafra, creative nonfiction: essays, Anvil; “A Fieldguide to the Roads of Manila and other Stories” by Dean Francis Alfar, short fiction, Anvil; “Our Darkest Hour” by Jose Miguel Arguelles, short fiction, Visprint; “Smaller and Smaller Circles” by F.H. Batacan, novel, Soho (New York); “Recuerdos de Patay” by Caroline S. Hau, short fiction, UP; “Espiritu” by Lourd de Veyra, creative nonfiction, Anvil; “Eight Muses of the Fall” by Edgar Samar, novel, translated from the original Filipino, Anvil; “Days of Disquiet, Nights of Rage” by Jose F. Lacaba, literary journalism, Anvil.

Pantoja-Hidalgo describes her list as reflecting her personal tastes and concerns as well as her limitations (“I am a slow reader in Filipino”), which show in the handful of writers in Filipino among her choices. She has focused on the books of younger writers, those between Generation X and the millennials, but makes an exception with Pete Lacaba. One title should jump out of the page with the current hype of it transformed for the big screen: Batacan’s “Smaller and Smaller Circles,” a crime novel that began to show this week, produced by the same team that brought us the memorable “Heneral Luna.” A major coup for Philippine literature!

I also recommend seven noteworthy titles for children and young adults from the 4th National Children’s Book Awards (NCBA), or Best Reads of 2016 for books published in 2014 and 2015. The NCBA is a collaboration between the Philippine Board on Books for Young People and the National Book Development Board.

These are: “Dumaan si Butiki” by Gigi Constantino, illustrated by Ray Sunga, Adarna House; “Haluhalo” (a wordless book) illustrated by Eli F Camacho, Adarna; “Mang Andoy’s Signs” by Mailin Paterno, illustrated by Isabel Roxas, Ilaw ng Tahanan; “Salusalo para kay Kuya” by Ergoe Tinio, illustrated by JC Galag, Adarna; “Supremo” by Xi Zuq, illustrated by Al Estrella, Adarna; “Si Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tábon” by Edgar Calabia Samar, Adarna; and the Kids’ Choice selected by a panel of child judges, “Made Perfect in Darkness” by Didith Rodrigo, illustrated by Patricia Lazcano.

Here’s to all a good holiday read!

* * *


Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ( is chair of the National Book Development Board and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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TAGS: Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, National Book Awards, Neni Sta. Romana Cruz, The Learning Curve
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