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Thanks to e-commerce! Philippine literature is gaining new grounds

by Gaby Agbulos

GROWING up, there was so much that I didn’t know about my history and my own culture.

It was only in senior high that I discovered authors like Jessica Zafra and Ricky Lee. Before that, I only knew of the literary classics: Noli Me Tangere, El Filibusterismo, Florante at Laura, and Ibong Adarna. 

Thanks to the rise of online shopping through e-commerce apps like Shopee and Lazada, they made my search for Filipino authors a more enjoyable journey. 

There are plenty of sites where you can buy these books. A personal favorite is Shopee because it was one of the first online shops I learned to use growing up. It made my search for Philippine literature so much easier. 

If you’re like the little lost girl I once was, here are some of the stores that you can rummage through. 

Happy book hunting!

  1. Gantala Press

Who they are: This self-proclaimed “Filipina Feminist Press is focused on producing works made by Filipino women. 

On their Shopee store, you’ll find literary anthologies, comics, zines, and cookbooks catered toward feminist, progressive, and political minds. 

Running for over eight years, works published by Gantala Press can be found in small bookstores like the Solidaridad Bookshop in Ermita, and Mt. Cloud Bookshop in Benguet. 

Their books are also available at Silingan Coffee in Cubao Expo, a cafe run and managed by families of drug war victims.

What we recommend: Gantala Press recommends their latest book, Panaglagip: The North Remembers – Martial Law Stories of Struggle and Survival. This collection of personal essays recounts the stories of former political prisoners in Northern Luzon.

If you’re a visual person, you can check out Dawwang: Kababaihang Tagapagtanggol ng Kordilyera, a graphic narrative that illustrates the struggles of those living by the Chico River Dam from the 70s until the 80s.

Want to try a recipe book mixed with a bit of politics? Then pick up Lutong Gipit: Mga Recipe sa Panahon ng Krisis, a cookbook written by peasant women from different parts of the country. 

The cookbook offers tasty meals and calls on the government to provide subsidies and counter countryside militarization.

  1. Avenida Books

Who they are: This independent publishing house prints books by Filipinos here and abroad. 

Avenida is known for producing stunning graphic novels that highlight plotlines and stories that are truly Filipino. They became famous for this genre after publishing Kikomachine Komix Blg. 15: Bulwagan ng Misteryo in 2019.

What we recommend: If you’re still hung up on the mystical world of aswangs and tiyanaks on Netflix’s Trese, Avenida Books has Budjette Tan’s graphic novels available on their page. Or if you’re excited about the upcoming Zsazsa Zaturnnah movie, you can read through the collected edition of Zsazsa Zaturnnah sa Kalakhang Maynila

You can also check out the works of famous Filipino screenwriter Ricky Lee in the store. Books like Para Kay B, a collection of different love stories from different people, and Kulang na Silya at Iba pang Kuwentong Buhay: Essays on Life and Writing, a collection of essays about Lee’s life, are now one ‘Buy Now’ button away.

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  1. Ateneo Press

Who they are: The Ateneo Press is the oldest in the bunch. It started publishing books in the 70s. Their publications center on Philippine humanities, social sciences, and local literature.

Their wide selection has grown over the years and now includes books on politics, biology, religion, and diaspora studies. Its physical store is located at Bellarmine Hall of Loyola Heights in Manila. 

Their current bestsellers right are books on communism and the Marcos dictatorship.

What we recommend: If you’re looking for something reflective of the reality around us with a snarky kick, then read The Age of Umbrage, the first novel of renowned Filipina writer Jessica Zafra. 

It follows the story of Guadalupe, a 15-year-old girl who is trying to navigate life as the daughter of the cook of one of the world’s richest families. 

For history lovers, Amazons of the Huk Rebellion: Gender, Sex, and Revolution in the Philippines is a great read.

Amazons of the Huk demonstrates how Filipinas were an integral part of this rebellion. They worked as spies, couriers, soldiers, nurses, and military commanders. Women did all that while keeping up with their duties as mothers and wives.

  1. Adarna House Official

Who they are: Established in 1980, Adarna House is best known for children’s books that we read growing up. Titles like Paano Kumain ng Gulay, Alamat ng Ampalaya and Chenelyn! Chenelyn! are some of them. 

This publishing firm makes books for all ages.

They also sell variations of classic Filipino novels like Jose de la Cruz’s Ibong Adarna and Jose Rizal’s Noli me Tangere. They carry graphic novels, too.

What we recommend: Wordless comic book Light by Rob Cham follows the story of an adventurer hunting for treasure. 

The protagonist lives up to its name by serving as a source of light as he fends off darkness.

Ang Tikbalang Kung Kabilugan ng Buwan is a great way to introduce kids to Filipino myths and legends. It is a short read on what a tikbalang does during a full moon, a topic so dear to Filipino culture.

  1. Anvil Publishing Inc.

Who they are: Anvil Publishing Inc. has been around since the 90s.

It is the publishing arm of  National Bookstore, and is considered one of the biggest publishers in the country.

They have pieces on fashion, history, politics, poetry, art, religion, and everything else in between. 

They also offer a variety of children’s books, textbooks, and reference books. If you like cramming for exams, this bookstore will be your best friend.

Books from Anvil Publishing Inc. are displayed in every branch of National Bookstore. They are also available at Rex Book Store, Solidaridad, and Landmark.

What we recommend: If you want to brush up on Philippine history and get to know the plight of the Filipinos in the hands of late Dictator Ferdinand Marcos, check out Looking Back 15: Martial Law by historian Ambeth Ocampo. 

The 15th part of his Looking Back series is a compilation of diaries filled with articles and documents based on Marcos Sr. Ocampo, who wrote this gem to combat historical revisionism under the two Marcos administrations. 

For something wholesome, Tabon Girl is a wonderful children’s book that follows a young girl named Mina and her venture into the Tabon Caves.

It is a short read that weaves the beauty of discovering Filipino history and culture so young readers can learn more about their heritage.

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