The Asian American Writers’ Workshop presents readings and performances curated by 2022 Open City Fellow Vina Orden in remembrance of a dark period in the history of the Philippines. 50 years ago, on September 21, 1972, dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Sr., declared martial law over the entire country, ushering a reign of terror where tens of thousands of political opponents, journalists, activists, human rights workers, farmers, and indigenous people were arbitrarily arrested and jailed; and thousands tortured, disappeared, or killed.
Nearly four decades after the 1986 People Power Revolution toppled the Marcos dictatorship, the dictator’s son, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos now is president; the vice president is Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of recent president Rodrigo Duterte, whose administration is under investigation by the International Criminal Court for extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses in its “War on Drugs.” And in all that time, there has been a systemic revision of the history of the Marcoses and martial law.
This program is presented in solidarity with ML50 observances in the Philippines to counter historical erasure and revisionism. We gather from different regions of the Philippines, from different diasporas, and from different generations to speak and bear witness to each other’s truths. To remember is to resist.
We are grateful to the writers, journalists, poets, artists, singer songwriters, and activists who contributed to this program and whose work continues to illuminate and make the truth irresistible: Nerissa Balce, Cinelle Barnes, Joi Barrios, John Bengan, Merlinda Bobis, Elaine Castillo, Rene Ciria-Cruz, Jill Damatac, Carina Evangelista, Luis H. Francia, Eric Gamalinda, Candy Gourlay, Jessica Hagedorn, Luisa A. Igloria, Bonifacio “Boni” P. Ilagan, Karen Llagas, Victor Manibo, Potri Ranka Manis, Carla Montemayor, Augustin “Don” Pagusara, Nonilon Queano, Bino A. Realuyo, Jun Cruz Reyes (translated and read by John Bengan), Albert Samaha, and Alfred “Krip” A. Yuson.
Nerissa S. Balce is a cultural studies scholar. She is an Associate Professor of Asian American studies at SUNY Stony Brook. She is the author of the book, Body Parts of Empire: Visual Abjection, Filipino Images and the American Archive. She was born and raised in Manila, Philippines. She writes on visual culture, Asian American fiction, and the afterlives of empire and fascism.
Cinelle Barnes is a formely undocumented writer, editor, and educator from Manila, Philippines. She is the author of Monsoon Mansion: A Memoir and Malaya: Essays on Freedom, and the editor of the NYT New & Noteworthy anthology, A Measure of Belonging: Twenty-One Writers of Color on the New American South. Her work has received support from the Sustainable Arts Foundation, City of Asylum, Pasadena City College, and the John and Susan Bennett Memorial Arts Fund, among others.
Joi Barrios serves as Senior Lecturer at UC Berkeley after working as Associate Professor at the University of the Philippines. She is the author of several books, among them, To Be a Woman is to Live at a Time of War, and In My Exile. She has won national literary awards, and was among the 100 Women Weavers of History chosen for the Philippine Centennial, 1998. She has received: the Ten Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service Award, 2004; the Balagtas Lifetime Achievement Award for Filipino Poetry, 2016; and the Dangal ng Panitikan Award, Philippine Language Commission, 2022.
John Bengan teaches writing and literature at the University of the Philippines Mindanao. His literary translations have appeared in Words Without Borders, LIT, Anomaly, SLICE, World Literature Today, and Shenandoah. He co-edited the anthology Ulirát: Best Contemporary Stories in Translation from the Philippines.
Merlinda Bobis is an award-winning novelist, poet, and dramatist with 12 published books and ten performed works. She won Australia’s Christina Stead Prize and the Philippine National Book Award for her novel Locust Girl, A Lovesong. Her latest book of short stories, The Kindness of Birds, received the Canberra Critics’ Circle Award and was finalist for the 2022 Christina Stead Prize and the Steele Rudd Award. She is Honorary Senior Lecturer at Australian National University. https://www.merlindabobis.com/
Elaine Castillo, named one of “30 of the Planet’s Most Exciting Young People” by the Financial Times, was born and raised in the Bay Area. Her debut novel, America Is Not the Heart, was a finalist for numerous prizes including the Elle Big Book Award, the Center for Fiction Prize, and was named a best book of 2018 by NPR, Lit Hub, San Francisco Chronicle, Kirkus Reviews, and the New York Public Library and more.
Rene Ciria-Cruz is the U.S. Bureau chief of Inquirer.net, the official website of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Philippines’ largest circulation broadsheet. He is also an editor at PositivelyFilipino.com and was associate editor at California Lawyer Magazine in San Francisco. He edited and reported for New America Media/Pacific News Service, Filipinas Magazine, and Katipunan Newsmagazine. His articles have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner (Hearst), Alternet, Berkeley Daily Planet and the National Catholic Reporter. He was a racial justice fellow with the Institute for Justice in Journalism at USC Annenberg School for Communications & Journalism.
Jill Damatac is a writer, filmmaker, and scholar whose work focuses on migration, identity, indigeneity, and race. Her work has featured at DOC NYC, the BBC, and TIME.com. Jill’s upcoming memoir, Dirty Kitchen, on Filipino food, family, and 22 years as an undocumented immigrant in the US, publishes with Astra House Books in 2024. She holds an MSt in Creative Writing from the University of Cambridge, where she is a PhD candidate studying contemporary Filipino American literatures.
Carina Evangelista‘s art research, curatorial, and publishing work straddles the United States and the Philippines. Most recently Acting Director at Asia Society Museum and Global Artistic Programs, she is also contributing author to publications on Philippine contemporary art. Her creative practice has included writing the libretto for Manhid, a musical about the EDSA Revolution; serving as actor and lyricist for the film Pisay; and participating as visual artist in Open City, the 2018 Manila Biennale.
Poet, playwright, and nonfictionist, Luis H. Francia teaches Filipino Language & Culture at New York University. His latest poetry collection is Thorn Grass. This past August his The Strange Case of Citizen de la Cruz was staged by Atlantic Pacific Theatre group, that also in 2021 virtually staged Black Henry, on Magellan’s 1521 disastrous landfall in the Philippines. His memoir Eye of the Fish: A Personal Archipelago, won the 2002 PEN Open Book and Asian American Writers Workshop awards. He is in the Library of America’s Becoming Americans: Four Centuries of Immigrant Writing.
Eric Gamalinda has published five novels, the third of which, Empire of Memory, is set during the rise and fall of the Marcos regime. He currently teaches at Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race.
Candy Gourlay was born in the Philippines, grew up under the Marcos dictatorship and met her husband during the People Power revolution. Her novel Bone Talk, set during the U.S. invasion of the Philippines, was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal and the Costa Prize. She lives in London with her family where she has written award-winning books for young people of all ages.
Jessica Hagedorn’s novels are Toxicology, Dream Jungle, The Gangster of Love, and Dogeaters, winner of the Before Columbus American Book Award and a finalist for the National Book Award. Her books of poetry include Danger and Beauty and Burning Heart: A Portrait of the Philippines, a collaboration with photographer Marissa Roth. She is the editor of three major fiction anthologies: Manila Noir, Charlie Chan Is Dead: An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction, and Charlie Chan Is Dead 2: At Home in the World. Hagedorn was awarded the Rome Prize for Literature in 2021, and is at work on a new book.
Luisa A. Igloria is the author of Maps for Migrants and Ghosts (Co-Winner, 2019 Crab Orchard Open Poetry Prize), The Buddha Wonders if She is Having a Mid-Life Crisis (2018), 12 other books, and 4 chapbooks. Originally from Baguio City, she makes her home in Norfolk VA where she is the Louis I. Jaffe and University Professor of English and Creative Writing at Old Dominion University’s MFA Creative Writing Program. She also leads workshops for and is a member of the board of The Muse Writers Center in Norfolk. Luisa is the 20th Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia (2020-22), Emerita. www.luisaigloria.com
For five decades, Bonifacio “Boni” P. Ilagan has worked in alternative and traditional mass media, including television and video/film, and the theater. His body of work has been recognized by the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, Cultural Center of the Philippines (CPP), Catholic Mass Media Awards, Film Academy of the Philippines, Philippine Movie Press Club Star Awards, Gawad Tanglaw, Golden Screen Awards, and the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences. In 1999, he was among the 100 awardees of the CCP Centennial Honors for the Arts. In 2010, he was conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award (Gawad Balagtas) by the Writers Union of the Philippines. Ilagan also is the recipient of the 2019 Gawad Plaridel Award for outstanding media practitioners from the University of the Philippines. Two years into the martial law dictatorship, he was captured and tortured in 1974; he was released in 1976. In 1994, he was rearrested and tortured again.
Karen Llagas’ new chapbook, All of Us Are Cleaved, is forthcoming from Nomadic Press in 2023. Her first collection of poetry, Archipelago Dust, was published by Meritage Press in 2010. A recipient of a RHINO Founder’s Prize, Filamore Tabios, Sr. Memorial Poetry Prize, and a Hedgebrook residency, her poems have also appeared in various journals and anthologies. She lectures at UC Berkeley, and divides her time between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Victor Manibo is a Filipino speculative fiction writer living in New York. As a queer immigrant and a person of color, he writes about people who live these identities and how they navigate imaginary worlds. Aside from fiction, he also spins fantastical tales in his career as a lawyer. He is a 2022 Lambda Literary Emerging Voices Fellow, and his debut science fiction noir novel, The Sleepless, is out August 2022 from Erewhon Books.
Potri Ranka Manis is a Meranao Bai Labi (tradition and culture bearer) and the Founder and Artistic Director of Kinding Sindaw, a New York City-based nonprofit dance theater company that asserts, preserves, reclaims, and re-creates the traditions of dance, music, martial arts, storytelling, and orature of the indigenous peoples of Mindanao, Southern Philippines. She also is an award-winning poet and playwright who has performed throughout the Philippines, Middle East, Hong Kong, and the United States. She was detained and tortured by the Philippine Constabulary during martial law in 1973 at the age of 13. While she was given conditional release to attend nursing school in 1975, her political prisoner status wasn’t officially cleared until 1986.
Carla Montemayor was born and raised in Manila, Philippines. She writes creative non-fiction, short stories, poetry and satire. She is a fellow for the London Library Emerging Writers programme 2022, and the London Writers Award in 2021. Her works have been shortlisted for the Specimen Prize and Spread the Word’s Life Writing Prize. She writes creative non-fiction, short stories, poetry and satire. She is working on a memoir about her life as a migrant in a changing England.
Agustin “Don” Pagusara is an award-winning Mindanawan poet and playwright of works in Cebuano, Tagalog, and English. Distinctions include the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas from UMPIL (Writers Union of the Philippines) and the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. He is a founding member of the Davao Writers Guild and co-founder, along with Macario Tiu, of the Ateneo de Davao Writers Workshop. Pagusara was an activist during martial law and was imprisoned for five years from 1974–1979.
Dr. Nonilon V. Queano is award-winning poet, playwright, and fiction writer, recognized by the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CPP), among others. He is a retired professor of English, comparative literature, and creative writing at the University of the Philippines-Diliman. He also is a master musician of drums and the kulintang (a gong ensemble integral to traditional Meranao and other Southeast Asian music) and performs with New York City-based, Mindanawan cultural dance theater company Kinding Sindaw.
Bino A. Realuyo spent his childhood in Martial Law Manila and never saw another Philippine president besides Marcos Sr. His first novel, The Umbrella Country, was set in the claustrophobia of a dictatorship without mentioning politics once. His long poem, The Gods We Worship Live Next Door, from his first poetry collection of the same name was also set in that political landscape, where Muslims and other groups who didn’t conform were labeled “communists” to justify their killings. Visit: binoarealuyo.com. @BinoARealuyo
Jun Cruz Reyes is a Filipino literary writer and college professor. Writing mainly in Filipino, he is an award-winning author of novels, short stories, essays, translations and biographies. He is also a multimedia artist – documentary filmmaker, painter and photographer. As a visual artist, he has exhibited his works in four one-man shows. Most of his paintings and some of his original manuscripts were destroyed when his ancestral home in Hagunoy, Bulacan was razed by fire on September 30, 2004. Reyes graduated from the Lyceum of the Philipines with a BS degree in Foreign Studies in 1969. He received both his Master of Arts (2000) and Doctor of Philosophy (2009) degrees in Malikhaing Pagsulat from the University of the Philippines. At present, Reyes is one of the associates of the U.P. Creative Writing Center. He is also a member of the faculty of Department of Filipino and Philippine Literature at the College of Arts and Letters in U.P. Diliman where he teaches Malikhaing Pagsulat (Creative Writing) and Araling Pampanitikan (Literary Studies).
Albert Samaha is a journalist at BuzzFeed and author of two books. His latest, Concepcion, was a finalist for the 2022 National Book Critics Circle Award in Autobiography and received a Whiting Foundation Creative Nonfiction Grant. His first book, Never Ran, Never Will, was winner of the New York Society Library’s 2019 Hornblower Award, a finalist for the 2019 PEN/ESPN Literary Sports Writing Award, and adapted into the Netflix docuseries We Are: The Brooklyn Saints.
Alfred “Krip” A. Yuson has authored over 35 books to date, including novels, poetry collections, short fiction, essays, children’s stories, biographies, travel, translation, and coffee-table books, apart from having edited various other titles, including several literary anthologies. Distinctions include the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas from UMPIL (Writers Union of the Philippines) and the SEAWrite (SouthEast Asian Writers) Award from Thai royalty for lifetime achievement. He has also been elevated to the Hall of Fame of the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. He contributes an arts and culture column to The Philippine Star. He taught fiction and poetry at Ateneo de Manila University, where he held the Henry Lee Irwin Professorial Chair.
Vina Orden is a writer, artist, and immigrants’ rights and social justice advocate based in New York City. Her writing about the Filipino community has appeared in AAWW’s The Margins, hella pinay, Hyperallergic, Asian Journal, The FilAm, and elsewhere. Currently, she is Editor for poetry and creative nonfiction at Slant’d magazine. She also is the co-host, along with Tamara Crawford, of The Lift Up, a monthly transatlantic conversation about books, writing, identity, and representation. She was a participant in Tin House’s 2022 YA Workshop, a Kweli Sing the Truth! Mentee, and is working on her first novel for young adults. Vina is a 2022 Open City Fellow. You can follow Vina on Twitter and Instagram at @hyffeinated or visit her website at vinaorden.com.