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Best Philippine short stories of the 20th century
By Angelica Bautista Viloria
September 18, 2000
I have always liked reading books. I have recently decided that I really like writing and should do more of it, whether for fun, for self-expression, for publication, or for profit. I have also discovered that since this realization, I have been put in situations where I get to communicate with other writers. I have even received inspiration to continue writing from writers who have won countless awards and who need not tell the world that they are writers for everyone already knows that they are, without a doubt.
I have never been keen about writing stories. In fact, if I remember right, I wrote my first story at the age of 33, just this year. I have not gotten around to sharing it with others but will probably do so, once I feel I'm really ready. It is an art form though that I would really like to be more comfortable with.
With this in mind, my husband and I attended the book launching of The Best Philippine Short Stories of the 20th Century last September 13. This was held at the Philippine Bookfair at the Megatrade Hall of SM Megamall. One of the writers included in the book, Ms. Lakambini Sitoy, e-mailed my husband, who maintains a Philippine Literature website (http://www.webmanila.com, with a subsection on Philippine Literature), regarding the affair.
So, we were off to attend our first book launching. The nice thing about a book launching is that the author would be around and would most likely gladly sign your copy. In this case, The Best Philippine Short Stories of the Twentieth Century, edited by well-known critic, Isagani R. Cruz, contained 50 short stories of the biggest names in Philippine literature and thus, we were truly writer-struck, even if not all 50 authors were around. The stories included in the book went as far back as the early 1920s up to 1998.
The hard-bound copy of the book cost P950 (about USD 21) at the launch, although I understand they will be selling the book at a higher price (about P1,200) after. At P24 per excellent story, per reader, this is a steal. The book looks good too. The black and orange glossy cover jacket is very attractive and dramatic. The paper (proudly Philippine-developed by Tahanan Books) is yellowish and smooth, as if to reflect the timelessness of the stories included and the ease with which the words flow, tale after interesting tale. The book would truly be a welcome addition to any Filipino's library, whether domestically or abroad. Even the younger generation, exposed to all the trappings of a more technologically advanced society and age, can only be enriched by going through the stories, each reflecting the creative talent of the Filipino writer.
During the brief program, Mr. Cruz mentioned that 40,000 copies of Harry Potter IV have already been sold here in the Philippines, a country where a run of 1,000-2,000 for each book is already considered optimistic. It is our wish then that this book would also generate the interest that it rightly deserves.
On to the fan part. We were able to have about 14 authors, in addition to editor Isagani Cruz, sign our book. Our book then, now has a touch of Philippine literary history. We were able to get "immortals" (to be immortal, remember you had to have a son, plant a tree, or write a book?) like Nick Joaquin, Charlson Ong, and Alfred Yuson ("Would my signature be enough or did you want a dedication?") to autograph our prized possession. More interesting were some of the messages that the other "immortals" put down or the fact that some of them actually talked to us and acknowledged our presence (Alejandro Roces: "Anong pangalan mo, iha?" Translation: What's your name, young lady?).
From Gregorio Brillantes: Peace! Joy! Love! and all other good wishes.
From Lilia Pablo Amansec: Much travel in body and mind for fulfillment and happiness (Prior to signing a book, she asked each person: "When's your birthday?" The person then answers. The next statement will then be: "So, you're a Sagittarian" (as in the case of my husband). "You love to travel." Hence, the dedication. It is also worthwhile to note that Ms. Amansec has also recently taken up painting and is mounting an exhibit. Talk about talent!
From Susan Lara: I won't be around when the next Best of the Century will be launched but I hope you will be there.
From Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo: May the stars shine warmly on you and your dreams.
From Lakambini Sitoy (the youngest author in the collection): Many thanks and hope you keep at the writing.
And so, we will keep on writing and reading. As Mr. Isagani Cruz paraphrased a quotation which had originally referred to prayer: "Reading does not change the world but reading changes you and you will change the world." Go out and grab a copy of the book for yourself. Read it. It showcases the best of Filipino talent.
Coming up soon: Angel's choices for the 5 best stories of the century - as soon as I finish reading the book.
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Written September 18, 2000
Copyright © 2000 by Angelica Bautista Viloria of http://www.viloria.com