Twelve Books From Bicol We’re Binge-Reading This Lockdown

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We asked fellow Bikolanos the twelve books published recently from the region that’s perfect for days. Like. These.

To many of us whose option for in-home entertainment may not include streaming services like Netflix, there’s the TV, a DVD player (or hey, a flick-filled flash drive), and of course, books. Whoever said that print is dying in today’s digital age is wrong: print is very much alive. In a surprising turn of events, digital publishing functions to funnel what audiences and readers like, paving the way to a more consumer-driven print publishing. With the print production process gaining artisanal value throughout the years, it’s easy to form dialogues around the cultural importance of books.

In Bicol, the resurgence of print is fueled by a regional sense of pride and a collective sentiment that springs from the need to preserv,e the literary heritage that comes from the region. We’ve asked fellow Bikolanos their must-read recommendations for everyone who’s ‘locked down’. This time however, we aren’t ‘luck-down,’ but really just lucky: pun intended.

#1 Ranga: Writings on BikolDanton Remoto (Ateneo de Naga University Press, 2019)

“Danton, like a true Bikolano child, is giving us a new book, maybe his 15th book so far and this is Ranga: Writings in Bikol published by our university press. The book is special because it is a recollection and celebration of Danton’s Bikol, our Bikol, our common and shared region. We are happy that you have come here and we hope you get copies of the book afterwards as a way of celebrating the Arts Month– let us get and read a book, listen to poetry and recollections and celebrate the books and arts that have touched our lives. And I hope you welcome this book of Danton in your hearts as we welcome him here today with open arms.” – Dr. Noel Volante (via the Ateneo de Naga University Press Facebook)

Why this is a lockdown must-read: Danton’s epic skills in capturing worlds enabled him to paint pictures of his hometown Oas, Albay in this call to revisit the memories that made us who we are today.

#2 Rarom, Rayo, Sari Saysay (Aklat Sining Banwa, 2018)ver)

The first book of Sari’s theater company Sining Banwa, Rarom, Rayo is a collection of his one act plays Emba, An Mga Aninipot sa Tahaw kan Salog. Santo Agua, Dakupon Ta an Paros, Junkshop, Titser, Titser, Gymgurls, Ang Bata sa Bus Stop.

Why this is a lockdown must-read: One of his most iconic piece, An Mga Aninipot sa Tahaw Kan Salog (Fireflies in the River) is musical extravaganza of how nature (the river especially) plays an important role in our lives. Yes, time for nature to take a breather, too.

#3 Hagong: Mga Osipon, Doods Santos and Frank Peñones Jr. (Ateneo de Naga University Press, 2013)

The Bikol word for short fiction is osipon, from the root word osip/usip which could mean a tale, to tell, also to tell on or squeal, gossip, accuse, and complain about. Twenty-two such osipon, contemporary Bikol short stories, are now in a volume entitled Hagong: Mga Osipon, edited by Paz Verdades M. Santos and H. Francisco V. Peñones Jr., published by the Ateneo de Naga University (AdNU) Press. The editors believe that the stories will most likely resonate, hagong, among Bikol readers as they recognize their own stories and lives in these.” – Karl Llorin, Ateneo de Naga University Faculty

Why this is a lockdown must-read: The origins of the osipon is mainly the same idea around tsismis (gossip), which means this book is filled with classic tea (we all like) from different parts of the region!

#4 Girok: Erotika, (VC Igarta Foundation for the Arts, 2016)

“Girok is not just another collection of Bikol writings but an extraordinary discovery of how imagination—especially one that appears to border on eroticism—can lead to a form of communicative art that playfully tickles the readers’ consciousness, yet directs them to understand the meaning of something that otherwise would remain obscure and distant.”—Greg Castilla

Why this is a lockdown must-read: an anthology of Bikol writings on erotica, dear–need we say more?


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#5 Rekado asin Rekwerdo, Maria Leny Felix (Librong Aninipot, 2019)

“This genré bender of a literary cookbook-memoir-homage, grounded in the earth and waterways and language of her Bikol home, plus the call to go back to the basics in food, to mother, and to Mother Nature are the things that make ‘Rekado asin Rekwerdo’ a sumptuous, nutritious, and memorable dish of a book deserving of space in our bookshelves.” – Doods Santos

Why this is a lockdown must-read: It’s high time to re-learn regional cuisine during these days, and what better way to do it than re-learn it with a bit of history?

#6 An Satuyang Kakanon sa Aro-aldaw (Ang Aming Biyaya sa Araw-araw), Kristian Cordero (Aklat Ng Bayan/Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino, 2015)

An Satuyang Kakanon sa Aroaldaw, on the other hand, focuses on more modern Bikolano poetry: extremely rare gems such as Rose Alibin’s concrete Mayon poems (short lyrics whose enjambed lines mimic the volcano’s shape and plumes of smoke) take center stage.” – CNN Philippines

Why this is a lockdown must-read: This anthology has been included in CNN Philippines’ most significant books of the decade, okay, so this is definitely a must-read.

#7 Ang Sandali Ng Mga Mata, Alvin Yapan (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2006)

“Looks through the characters in the folk stories of the past and the Bikol people of the present. The use of folk stories to complete the action marks a striking technical innovation, blending past and present while keeping the narrative moving into the future. . . . runs together the time of the epic with contemporary time.” – Ateneo de Manila University Press

Why this is a lockdown must-read: It won the 2006 National Book Award, Juan C. Laya Award for Best Novel in a Philippine Language so yes–this is definitely a must-read. If you’re scared of snakes, you might skip reading this (kidding), but it references the famous serpentine temptress Oryol pretty well!


#8 Banana Heart Summer, Merlinda Bobis (Anvil, 2004)

“In her lush, luminous debut novel, Merlinda Bobis creates a dazzling feast for all the senses. Richly imagined, gloriously written, Banana Heart Summer is an incandescent tale of food, family, and longing—at once a love letter to mothers and daughters and a lively celebration of friendship and community.”  – Penguin Randomhouse

Why this is a lockdown must-read: Also a peek into local culinary heritage, this novel lures its readers into an insatiable hunger for happiness through Nenita’s eyes. Food and family during these times: what more can you ask for?


#9 Wala Akong Bitbit na Sawiang Puso Tuwing Naglalakbay, Carlos Arejola (Ateneo de Naga University Press, 2015)

Carlos Arejola’s last book of poetry before his passing is a poignant collection on the heart’s (and mind’s) ability and inability to travel. The book features over fifty poems picked and packed from the author’s experiences in his hometown, Pili, its neighboring towns and Bicol in general. His most memorable pieces like Lubluban Ng Baboy, Manyikang Papel, and Bawat Mangingibig ay Magiging Tula are written beautifully, making the heart–broken or not–wander.

Why this is a lockdown must-read: If you’re a certified wanderlust who likes to use poetry as a means to travel, this book is for you.


#10 BKL/Bikol Bakla: Anthology of Bikolnon Gay, Trans, Queer Writing, Ryen Paul Sumayao and Jaya Jacobo (Naga Goldprint, 2019)

A landmark anthology in Bikol contemporary writing, BKL/Bikol Bakla is a collection of over 42 poems and 16 stories from 24 Bikolnon gay, trans and queer writers living in and outside the region. This anthology envisions to situate Bikolnon identities in the queer spheres and origins that define their being, magnifying them through intimate vignettes and dioramas. – BKL/Bikol Bakla Official Press Release

Why this is a lockdown must-read: Pretty much the first of its kind in terms of regional coverage, this anthology had great media mileage and because of its limited run, only 500 copies were released, it shed a rare, different light into Bikol’s new breed of queer, trans and gay writers.


#11 Hunos, Allan Popa (Artista Publications, 2000 and Ateneo de Naga University, 2018)

“The 43 poems in this collection deal with mortality, transcendence, and loss of innocence, framed in dramatic situations. Many are set in Catanduanes, Popa’s birthplace. Some foreground rituals and events rooted in Catholicism, and call for knowledge of local space, folklore, and religion for their proper understanding.” – Joey Baquiran

Why this is a lockdown must-read: With the beautiful province of Catanduanes as the backdrop of these poems (Catanduanes is slowly gaining its tourism potential), this is an exciting foray into the author’s rich experience of the province!



#12 Bikol Studies (Perspectives & Advocacies): Nora, Jaya Jacobo, issue editor (Ateneo de Naga University Press, 2020)

This journal is dedicated to the life and works of Irigueña Nora Aunor is edited by Dr. Jaya Jacobo and contains articles, essays and poetry by Patrick Flores, Tito Valiente, Michael Obenieta and Kristian Cordero among others.

Why this is a lockdown must-read: Just in case you’ve been watching the digitally restored versions of Himala, T-Bird at Ako, Ikaw Ay Akin, Bulaklak sa City Jail and other Nora gems, this journal is a great insight into the country’s superstar.



We know you’ve got more recommendations. Let us know by messaging us!

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