I was recently asked to make some book recommendations. The books, preferably available in bookstores and "easily digestible," were to answer the question: What should I read if I want to learn more about the Philippines and Philippine culture?
Smile, Cebu Pacific's inflight magazine, is probably one of the most widely-circulated (if not most widely-read) magazines in the Philippines AND I had long wondered why the few books featured in its pages were mostly foreign books, so even though my mom was in the hospital when the request came and I was quite busy at work, I set aside some time thinking about which books about the Philippines would be helpful for foreigners and Filipinos alike.
Below is the introduction I sent (which was not published huhu), as well as the full text of the article. You can download "The Philippines for Beginners," the entire June 2015 issue, and even previous issues on the Smile website.
THE PHILIPPINES FOR BEGINNERS
These recommendations from book historian and librarian Dr Vernon R Totanes are sure to add to your knowledge of the nation
"What’s the best history book on the Philippines?" That's a question I usually get asked when people find out that my PhD dissertation was on the history of the Filipino history book. My answer is often another question—"What are you interested in?"—because there is no book that is suitable for all readers, and scholarly monographs or school textbooks are not necessarily appropriate for the needs of those who wish to know more about Filipinos and the Philippines.
1 Learn Tagalog — the fun way
ALAMAT NG AMPALAYA BY AUGIE RIVERA
The song "Bahay Kubo" enumerates the many vegetables grown in neighborhood gardens with one exception — ampalaya (bitter gourd). The omission inspired this children's book. The Tagalog and English texts are sure to prove useful for those aiming to study one or both languages.
2 Get to know a national hero
RIZAL WITHOUT THE OVERCOAT BY AMBETH R OCAMPO
Jose Rizal, considered the national hero of the Philippines, was more man than Superman. This book uses humor and interesting trivia to (re)introduce Rizal as a mere mortal who loved women, was stingy with money and liked to eat tuyo for breakfast.
3 Be one with the locals
PACIFIC RIMS: BEERMEN BALLIN’ IN FLIP-FLOPS AND THE PHILIPPINES' UNLIKELY LOVE AFFAIR WITH BASKETBALL BY RAFE BARTHOLOMEW
Ever wondered why Filipinos — most of whom aren't that tall — love basketball? Find the answer in this book, which the author has described as his love letter to the Philippines.
4 Appreciate the nation's cuisine
MEMORIES OF PHILIPPINE KITCHENS BY AMY BESA AND ROMY DOROTAN
Learn how to cook lumpiang Shanghai, adobo and kinilaw and get better acquainted with the origins of Philippine cuisine with this cookbook by the duo behind Purple Yam. It features stunning photographs, too.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼i DR VERNON R TOTANES, LICENSED LIBRARIAN AND BOOK HISTORIAN, IS THE DIRECTOR OF THE RIZAL LIBRARY, ATENEO DE MANILA UNIVERSITY. HE BLOGS AT FILIPINOLIBRARIAN.BLOGSPOT.COM